Thursday, 03 May 2012 06:06

Insights From Dale Carnegie : Book Review by Ozodi Osuji

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Dale Carnegie. How to win friends and Influence people. (New York: Pocket Books, 1981), 276 Pages

I read this book many years ago. Recently, while browsing at a used books store I bought a copy and re-read it. Here are some of the points that I got from it; these points might help you in your interpersonal relationships; in managing human relationships.

Certain Nigerians think that it is kind of cute to degrade and humiliate human beings; it kind of makes them feel (falsely) superior by putting other Nigerians down; they might benefit from reading this book. Among other things, they would learn that a key motivator of human behavior is the wish to be important; existentially all of us are born in bodies, bodies that would die and rot and smell to high heaven, so we doubt our existential importance; we, therefore, seek importance.

You do not see white folks telling you that their tribe (English, French, German, Russian etc.) is superior to other tribes; they realize that to put other tribes down is to slap them and those slapped feel hurt and defend themselves by slapping you back, psychologically or physically.

But you see certain Nigerians taking primitive joy in putting their fellow Nigerians down, hurting their pride and vanity hence challenging them to attack them in an effort to assuage their injured narcissism.

Some of them even believe that they are superior to other Nigerians. Since in reality all human beings are the same and equal those who feel superior to other persons tend to have delusion disorder (aka paranoia) and need to heal that partial psychosis by accepting our equality and respecting all people. Doing what insane people do, trying to amass superficial evidence to prove their belief that they are superior persons only reinforce that psychosis.

(Adolf Hitler and his fellow Nazis came up with rationalizations why Germans are a superior people; such as the thesis that they are responsible for most science and technology but that is weird science; by the same token, those Africans who claim that their tribal members have achieved more than others hence are superior to them are engaged in weird science, as Hitler did; they are dangerous people for  their behaviors could lead to killing other Africans, those they deem inferior and not feel bad from doing so. This is why they must be corrected, and why I risked their anger at me to emphasize their poverty of good thinking.)

Mental health lies in seeing all people, black and white, men and women, children and adults as coequal and respecting and loving them as one loves and respects ones self.

If you make those around you feel important they would love you but if you make them feel unimportant by desecrating them they would hate you, some would even attack and kill you (and it would be your fault for not understanding what folks need most (food and sense of importance).

I highly recommend that you read Dale Carnegie’s book (s); it has been translated into the major languages of the world; it is a worldwide best seller of all times; over twenty million copies of it has been sold.

Let me summarize the points made by Carnegie’s book.

Do not criticize people for it makes them feel small and they would deny doing what you said they did and instead stop doing anything and literally become defensive; all human beings (egos) want to seem dignified and criticizing them makes them feel small which they do not want to feel.

People already feel small and want to feel important. The pursuit of importance is what drives all human beings. Without the desire for existential and social importance people would do nothing, hence there would be no civilization, people would live like animals; what differentiates people from animals is their desire to be important.

Where importance is not obtained (say, due to sickness or racism) people seek it through insanity (neurosis is desire for importance, delusion is desire for importance, schizophrenia is desire for importance, mania  is desire for importance, depression is desire for importance in a negative manner; being sickly and invalid is a desire for importance).

Since what people are doing is seeking importance then do not criticize them or put them down; always appreciate them for that makes them feel important.

(Nobody knows the origin of this desire for importance but metaphysically it seems rooted in being part of spirit that has importance and separating from it to experiencing the opposite of importance in body, which is unimportant.   In body people feel unimportant for their bodies would die and rot yet in bodies they seek importance....these are ozodi’s thoughts, not Carnegie’s)

Normalcy lies in finding a way to feel important and managing importance, giving you a sense of importance and giving those around you a sense of importance; abnormalcy is where importance is missing and it is sought in fantasy.

If a woman is loved and appreciated by her husband she feels important; if you ignore her she feels unimportant and leaves you to go find a person who makes her feel appreciated and important; she would seek it in other men (these days, in other women and if lesbianism fails in dogs).

Africans were told that they are unimportant and are seeking importance (I come along and seem to tell them that they are unimportant and they hate me for saying so).

Love for people’s bodies makes them feel important; if you tell people that their bodies are nothing, as I told the women in my spiritual nature found sex repulsive... then they feel unimportant and go to those who would value their bodies.

People want you to give them what they want; they do not want to talk about what you want but what they want; good marketers therefore sell to people what they want, not what they themselves want (unless it is what the people also want).

In business people want what you can do for them so show them what you can do for them, not what they can do for you and you are hired  and retained; the moment you stop doing what your employer and customers want from you they stop having you around, fire you or stop buying your products.

This is how capitalism operates. Find out what people want and produce it and sell it and be in business; if not you are out of business. If you like, you can be cynical about it but the capitalist is not cynical, he is doing what he believes is the empirical truth of people.

People do not care for you or want to talk about your problems; they care for themselves and want you to talk about their issues, not yours so show them how to deal with their issues and they ask you to stick around.

Become genuinely interested in people and go out of your way to care for them and they would like you, but if you are not interested in people they would ignore you.

People like those who smile and are cheerful so always smile and be cheerful around people and they would like you; if you are depressed and sour people will flee from you (they do not want to know why you are sad and unhappy; they just want you to smile); the receptionist or telephone girl who smiles at customers retains them whereas the one that does not do so repulses customers and her employer loses customers and must fire her to be in business, to sell his goods and services.

People are vain and proud, they cherish their names so always remember people’s names; if you forget their names they would not care for you at all.

People want you to listen to their issues but do not want you to do the talking; so listen to them and encourage them to talk but do not talk about yourself.

Find out what other people are interested in and when talking to them talk about their interests, not your interests for they do not want to know anything about your interests and troubles.

Make other people feel important and do it sincerely, not as if you are flattering them and they would like you and you can then influence them.

Avoid arguing with other folks for arguing is meant to prove that you are right and the other person wrong; you want to win and the other person lose; if you win and he loses he has lost face and feels challenged to prove you wrong; therefore, you do not win; acknowledge the point of view of the other guy and avoid arguing with him even if you know that you are correct; that way he saves face and retains his dignity and sense of importance; people want to feel important and without it they would feel no energy to do anything else so allow them to feel important; it is pursuit of importance that produces human civilization; without it we are mere animals.

People want to be respected; therefore, show them that you respect them; if people feel disrespected by you even if what you are saying makes sense they would become defensive and attack you. People go to wars when they feel disrespected by other folks. Never, never disrespect folks!

Nobody wants to admit that he is wrong; if folks make mistakes and you point out their mistakes they feel that you have put them down, attacked their dignity; so be the one who acknowledges your mistakes and do not argue with the other person even if he is wrong.

It takes courage to say that you made a mistake (or say correct me if I am wrong).

Always let people know that you are a friend, not their enemy; in whatever you say to people get them to see that you genuinely care for them. Even those who are overtly hostile to you really want to be your friend so begin all conversations and relationships by letting folks know that you care for them.

If you want the other person to agree with you the best way to go about it is give suggestions and let him take credit for what he eventually accepts as what he needs to do. No one wants other people to tell him what to do so do not tell people what to do, make suggestions and let them decide what to do and their yes would eventually be what your yes all along is.

If people are complaining about you, your action or about the product or services you sold to them hear them out; do not argue with them trying to prove that you are right and they wrong; just patiently listen to their complaint and understand them.

People feel that no one listens to them or understand them so always listen to people; do not talk too much; do not give your opinions, just listen; let other people do most of the talking and feel that they made the decisions. (I have not learned this lesson for I am motivated to tell people what I feel but seldom listen to them.)

If you want to get other peoples cooperation even if you have the idea and vision of what you want done get the other persons to take credit for the idea (organizational goal). Good leaders and managers get folks to do what they want done yet feel that they are doing their own things; no one wants to do what other people tell him to do, do other peoples things; people will work many hours if they feel that they are doing their work, not your work.

Get people to feel that you are trying very hard to see things from their point of view, from their perspective; do not always try to superimpose your perspective all the time; your perspective makes people feel like your followers, your slaves; folks want to feel in charge of their lives hence want to do those things that reflect their perception, so always get folks to see that what you want done is from their point of view, not yours.

Every person wants to feel that his ideas matter more than other persons ideas, so let people’s ideas prevail; let people win the battle even if they eventually lose the war.  If you disagree with them do not harp on it, just agree with them and tell them that you have your doubts and want to think about the matter some more but never cavalierly dismiss folks ideas on anything that infuriates them.

Appeal to peoples noble aspects, to their higher, not baser nature; people like to feel like they are godlike, so appeal to that aspect of them; it makes them feel important.

Instead of being preachy dramatize your ideas, show how they work in images and leave people to decide whether they are good or not but do not try to superimpose those ideas on people.

People like to-do challenging things so give them challenge and they would try to overcome it, master it; people are motivated to do difficult, not easy jobs.

Dale Carnegie on Leadership

I suspect that this section of the book was added later on (the original book was written in 1936). Mr. Carnegie did not really say anything new in this section of the book that he had not already said before but what he seemed to have done is apply his insights into how to get along with people to leadership matters.  Leaders use people (and capital) to accomplish (organizational/Social) goals and therefore have to have good human relationships.

The first point that leaders need to know, as Carnegie sees it, is that people do not like to be criticized; if you criticize people they clam up. Therefore,  if you want people to work hard for you please do not criticize them and if you must do so please start by criticizing yourself.

Tell those under you about your own faults; that makes them feel okay hence accept that they have faults, too.  You do not want to give your subordinates the impression that you are perfect and them imperfect.  Tell them about your imperfection, your mistakes doing the jobs they are doing and how you learn from your mistakes and make corrections and how they too could learn from their mistakes and make corrections. The goal is not to not make mistakes but to learn from our mistakes and reduce making them in the future.

Seek every opportunity to praise what your subordinates did right rather than stress what they did wrong. Every parent, rational ones, any way, know that the best way to get your child to learn is to praise him, to positively reinforce his efforts and not dwell on his mistakes. “Gee, it is nice that you read that book” would get a child to read more books than to tell him that he does not read books.

Yet, there are occasions when the leader must call attention to folk’s mistakes; folks do make mistakes and they cannot be tolerated just to make them feel good about themselves and retain their positive self-esteem.  Mr. Carnegie said that the leader must call attention to mistakes indirectly, not directly.

This advice kind of made me feel that he has not been in management! In management you sometimes have to call a spade a spade.  If a fellow is not doing his work right you seat him down and tell him so and give him time to learn how to do it (probation period), or  to go look for another job, a job he can do well, for surely there is something that he can do well.

It is nice to talk about ones mistakes, as Carnegie asked the leader to do, for that humanizes the leader; however, in the real world workers often do not want to see their leaders as ordinary men who make mistakes.  Though the leader obviously makes mistakes it may not be a good idea to always talk about it.  He ought to talk about how to do a job that is validated by studies (validity and reliability studies) and stay away from that feel good talk about how we all are human and make mistakes.

Workers want to respect their supervisors and managers and look up to them; they do not want to see them as at their level of expertise; workers respect expertise in the manager; they do not respect a manager who does not know what he is doing.

Carnegie tells us that people do not want to take orders from any one, including their bosses (no one likes to be bossed around) and therefore one should make suggestions regarding what to do. This is a useful advice.

In real management, however, leaders and managers set the goals and clarify steps to get to them; good managers explain to the workers the organizational goals and the specific objectives that must be incrementally done to attain them, and obtain resources for them to achieve them and then evaluate them to see if they attained them. I manage by objectives.

Carnegie is so enthralled by the need to make folks feel important that he asks leaders to strive at all cost to make sure that their subordinates do not lose face. Lately, teachers embraced this method of teaching so that they do not give poor grades to students so that they may not lose face, lose their self-esteem. The result is that folks go through high school and cannot write in complete sentences; indeed, some cannot fill out application forms.

In my judgment we must train students and workers to deal with the reality of the world; the world is a competitive place; in competition you have to learn what it takes to compete; in competition some win and some lose.

If you lose in one race you feel bruised but you get up like a man, lick your wounds and find something that you have aptitude and interest in and go compete in it.

Mr. Carnegie asked leaders to spur their subordinates to success by praising their every effort; to shower them with praises for every little improvement they made and to be hesitant to criticize them. This is a good suggestion.  But sometimes criticism is useful.

If, for example, you find adult men always insulting other men and you know that they are setting themselves up to be attacked and killed by those they degrade you must tell them to knock it off regardless of whether they like you or not. A real leader does not always want to be liked by his subordinates.

I get the impression that Carnegie is what we call emotional leader, not task leader. I lead by setting tasks, goals and working towards them and judging myself as good or bad to the extent that I attain my goal. What I do to me I do to others.

As I see it, the work place is not a charity house; it is either you can do the work or you cannot; if you cannot you are out of here.

It is true that folks want good reputations so we must give a dog a good name if we want it to love us, wag his tail at our presence. We must give folk positive reputations to live up to. But if they insist on doing the wrong thing, such as stealing and corruption, you become draconian and whack them real hard, even crack their heads if that is the only way to get them to shape up or shape out.  You do not coddle thieves (as they do in Nigeria).

Make the fault seem easy to fix. This is a good idea; a good teacher can make taking calculus seem easy, make taking physics and chemistry seem easy; but this is done not by mere talk but by figuring out how to teach those subjects so that they seem interesting to students.

A good manager must know how to do the line work and from experience can teach other workers how to do it.  Talk is easy, action is difficult. The reason they pay managers a lot more than line workers is that hopefully they know how to do the job and teach it to folks. We pay for experience and good judgment in managers; one bad judgment and the company loses money or goes broke.

You have to make people feel glad that they are doing the work you hired them to do.  This is so true that there is nothing to add or subtract from it. People want to feel that what they are doing is worthwhile and contribute to the good of their work place and to society in general; so value their jobs.

Garbage collectors are responsible for public health; if they did not pick up garbage we would all die from diseases so let garbage collectors know that they are as important as the doctors who heal people when they already become sick.  The preventers of sickness arguably are more important than the healers of illness.

A good manager and or leader makes his subordinates feel that they are doing the most important jobs in the world...and pays them well for doing them.

On the whole, Mr. Carnegie has some useful advice on leadership and his ideas are worth reading. However, the literature on leadership has vastly improved since Mr. Carnegie wrote in the 1930s (he died in 1955)*.  This is a useful book and I encourage folks to read it; it is useful in developing good human relationships but I do not know about the management and leadership matters aspect of it.


Dale Carnegie, in effect, said: people are selfish and self-centered; they demand certain things (such as importance) so give it to them if you want them to like you.  He is not out to change people and make them different from what they are; he simply studied people as they are and gave them what they asked for and in so doing got them to like him (hence make friends with them, for if you do not give them what they want they would not become your friends).

If you talk about how you feel to people they would ignore you for they do not want to know about your feelings; what they want you to do are concern yourself with their own feelings.  So concern yourself with other peoples feeling and do not mind that they do not care about your own feelings!

Is this okay?  Obviously it works! The book would seem cynical and manipulative of human beings egoistic nature; it took people as they are and is not interested in changing them and turning them into selfless people.  Mr. Carnegie is not in the business of changing people to something better than they are; he does not know that they are capable of becoming angels, anyway; he just treats people as they are. He is therefore a scientist of human nature and human relationships.

As he sees it, we are egos who relate to each other from our egos (our self-interests), so he teaches us how to relate to other egos so that they like us (by doing what they want from us); he is not teaching people to give up their egos and become loving selves (spirit); he does not even know if spirit exists or not.

Those who talk about spirituality often are talking how to escape from this world of egos; they do not deal with the reality of the fact that human beings are, as Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations) told us, selfish animals and that it is in pursuing their self-interests that they work hard and that it is in gratifying their interests that you produce goods and services that they would demand, buy, and you make profit and stay in business.  Capitalism works; socialism or bleeding hearted caring for other people does not lead to the production of goods and serves; it does lead to the Poverty of Nations.

Carnegie is like a university professor who studies people as they are and from what he sees them as wants to make the most of them. He does not engage in wishful thinking or magical thinking on how to make people over to loving persons.  I like his realism. He is an honest man and an honest thinker.

Carnegie’s ideas work except that anyone who lives doing what he asks him to do will find that his life feels empty, unless, of course, he is an amoral sociopath. Enough already; go read the book.

*For a comprehensive book on supervision, management and leadership see Dr. Ozodi Thomas Osuji’s book: The Art of Leadership for Africans.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

May 2, 2012

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176