Human Engineering: How to Win Friends and Influence People

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Though the title of the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, may seem quaint, the advice in the book is still relevant today. Originally published in 1936, Dale Carnegie's book has been described as a “working handbook on human relations.” It's not so much about how to “make friends” as it is to understand how people think and change your own actions so that people respond to you favorably.

Research conducted by the Carnegie Institute says that only 15 percent of your success is due to technical know-how. The other 85 percent derives from your skills in “human engineering”—communicating, influencing, and negotiating. That's why successful professionals so often reference this book.

Carnegie breaks down the book into four sections:

Section One: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  • Don't criticize, condemn, or complain. Criticism makes people defensive. Rather than focusing on the problem, focus on the people–why they do what they do.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation. Letting people know you appreciate their efforts creates goodwill and a reciprocal interest in your own efforts.
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want. Carnegie firmly believes that you can't make someone listen to your ideas unless you first get them to want to listen. You do that by trying to see things from their point of view and reconciling that to your own.

Section Two: Four Ways to Make People Like You

  • Become genuinely interested in other people. To get people interested in you, you have to show that you are interested in them. That comes not just through words, but also through your actions—your “time, energy, unselfishness, and thoughtfulness”.
  • Smile. It's a simple enough tip, but Carnegie describes the simple power of greeting people with a smile.
  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. Not only does it show that you are interested in them, but learning about them will help you communicate better with them as well.
  • Make the other person feel important. Giving your time and attention to others will inspire them. People perform better when they feel a high sense of self-worth.

Section Three: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  • The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. Carnegie says that even when you win an argument, you lose it. You may have a short-term gain, but the damaged relationship is a long-term loss.
  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. Trying to defend your mistakes erodes others' confidence in your ability and integrity.
  • Get the other person saying, “Yes, yes” at the outset. Start your conversations and discussions from the points of agreement before moving on to points of contention.
  • Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires. Be open to hearing other ideas. Even if you disagree, understanding the reason and emotion of others' positions will help you.

Section Four: Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Orders or Arousing Resentment

  • Ask questions instead of giving direct orders. People will give better effort, and you'll get better results, if you lead them to your intended actions with advice and questioning rather than simply telling them what to do.
  • Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. By promoting the strengths of others, you can inspire them to live up to your words.
  • Make the other person happy about doing the thing you want them to do. Be sincere and try and explain how doing the thing you're requesting aligns with the other person's interests.

None of this is rocket science. The reason that Carnegie's book has been in print since 1936, though, is that everyone can brush up on these skills. The book is full of interesting stories illustrating the advice. This is a book that every professional should read (and re-read occasionally). It's not a long book, but it is packed with great advice. And, even though the advice is intuitive, it's not always easy to keep at the top of your mind. 

If you refresh yourself on these principles frequently and do your best to put them into practice, you'll certainly improve your “human engineering skills”—the skills that the Carnegie institute credits with 85 percent of your future success. As an added bonus, you'll also improve your personal relationships along the way.

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photo credit: CJS*64 via photopin cc

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