Talking and building a connection with other people has been – and still is – a problem for me growing up; being shy and lacking self-confidence did not help. As such, conversation and body language self-help books were my favorite reads during my college and post-college years. I wrote a post on learning to be a better conservationist here. If anything, those books help increase your conversational arsenal.
My latest book, and a oldie, is How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie, originally released in 1936. I only read the first half of the book, the the last half is about managing people, which is not something I am interested in at the moment.
The book is enjoyable as there are tons of interesting stories and quotes that flush out each chapter. Dale Carnegie uses real world examples – both first and second hand – that make the stories feel more relatable. In addition, each chapter ends with a simple one sentence principle that summarizes the chapter.
Even if many of the principles in the book seems like “common” sense, you might be surprise what you are doing, or not doing, once Dale Carnegie brings attention to them. With that, let’s look at some of the principles that matters the most to me.
1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain
I think there’s a reason this is the very first principle. Criticizing or condemning people will only cause them to double down and go on the defensive, not win you any new friends. Trying to understand the other person is more effective, according to the book.
2. Give sincere appreciation
There is a difference between appreciation and flattery. Flattery is just telling the other person what they want to hear, which I am guilty of. Because flattery is easy, I have to actively catch myself due to old habits.
3. Become genuinely interested in other people
This principle not only helps you make friends, but is great for business. Find a common topic or subject that you have interest, try not to fake your interest.
This simple sentence from the book pretty much says it all, “It costs nothing, but creates much.” Plus, this is a great first impression.
5. A person’s name is the sweetest sound to that person
The book emphasizes remembering names of people you meet to show that you care – and paying attention – when you meet them again. And, use their names often as a person’s name is one of the few things that identify each person.
6. Be a good listener by encouraging others to talk about themselves
I am sure you probably heard this before if you are an aspiring conversationalist, yet a principle I wished I knew when a long time ago. Instead of stressing out on finding something interesting to say, ask the person questions about themselves or accomplishments.
I really cannot do this book justice. I highly recommend that you pick up How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie for yourself. You can read the first two chapters like me if you just want tips on communication. Of course, you fully benefit from the book if you’re into business and management; but business or not, the later principles can benefit anyone as they focus on cooperation with people you do not necessary want to be best buds with.
There are many editions but any edition is fine. Most of the editions are revised with modern stories and examples throughout the decades. My edition, the Special Anniversary Edition, has an insert about Stevie Wonder, for example.