In the same spirit that we might learn military tactics from Hitler, we can learn about relationships from Dale Carnegie. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn from him.” Despite his faults, there is a lot we can learn from Dale Carnegie.
How To Win Friends and Influence People is not really about how to win friends and influence people. It's about using others to get what you want, but it doesn’t have to be. It was written for salespeople. Most people that read it are not salesmen, but there is a lot the rest of us can learn from it.
Let’s cease thinking of our accomplishments, our wants. Let’s try to figure out the other person’s good points. Then forget flattery. Give honest, sincere appreciation.
Why don't we give honest, sincere appreciation to people? This is not manipulation. This is simply obeying the golden rule, “Treat others as you would like others to treat you.” It is encouraging and uplifting. Why don't we do this more?
Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain — and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.
What do we have to gain by ripping each other apart? Most of the time, criticism does nothing but hurt the person you criticize and damage your relationship. It does not help you, and it does not help the person you are ripping apart.
There are times when constructive criticism is helpful, but tact is necessary. Carnegie talks about this in part four, chapters one and two. He gave an example:
Charles Schwab was passing through one of his steel mills one day at noon when he cam across some of his employees smoking. Immediately above their heads was a sign that said “No Smoking.” Did Schwab point to the sign and say, “Can't you read?” Oh no not Schwab. He walked over to the men, handing each one a cigar, and said, “I’ll appreciate it, boys, if you will smoke these on the outside.” They knew they had broken a rule—and they admired him because he had said nothing about it and gave them a little present and made them feel important.
Pointing out someone's mistake indirectly is a great way to tactfully and constructively reprove someone. A good way to do this is to use the word “and” instead of “but.” For Example:
We're really proud of you, John, for raising your grades this term. But if you had worked harder on your algebra, the results could have been better.
We're really proud of you, John, for raising your grades this term, and by continuing the same conscientious efforts next term, your algebra grade can be up with the others.
The latter version is much more tactful and encouraging, and chances are John would do better on his algebra grade next term if his parents took the second approach.
All that said, the book is defiantly worth it. Just remember to read it with a grain of salt. Ironically, I criticize Carnegie's book in this article, but it's not all bad. He wrote this book for salespeople and business executives, and for those people, this book is fantastic. You just need to remember not to use sales tactics on your mom.