Wayback Advice: Do We Still Know How to Make Friends (and Influence People)?

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Arguably, one of the most influential career advice books of all time is How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. First published in 1936, Carnegie’s book is considered a classic and still referenced today. For perspective, in 1936, Charlie Chaplin was still making movies, and sliced bread was considered a relatively new thing having been invented only 8 years before. The ballpoint pen would be invented two years after this book came out. The point is, 1936 is a long way away from 2018, especially in the context of the workplace.

As part of our newest series, we wanted to take advice from a different era, and see if it applies to today. You’re going to be surprised about this one.

Tip #1: “You make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

This advice seems timeless, and we’d love to find an angle to inject some snark here, but we just can’t. As my grandma would say, interested people are interesting. Demonstrating that you’re interested in what’s going on with other people shows them that you care about them, and they’re more likely to want to engage with you. It’s that simple. This is honest, pure advice that should be applied not just in your professional life, but everywhere.

Tip #2: “Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

We were really hoping that some of this advice wouldn’t hold up; like maybe he’d try to sneak in something that would be egregious in 2018 such as the proper way to say hello to your manager is doing the Charleston, but this is pretty solid too! Remembering someone’s name demonstrates your interest in them (see tip #1) and also shows that you care about them. In a professional (or personal) setting that can go a long way. Who would you rather associate with? The person who knows who you are, or the one who can’t be bothered to remember?

Tip #3: “Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person's precious pride, hurt his sense of importance and arouses resentment.”

Now, something we can work with! Obviously, we don’t suggest you rub someone’s nose in anything you disagree with, but healthy feedback is crucial to a working relationship. Simon Cowell has basically built an empire on it. No one likes it when they’re told something didn’t hit the mark, but healthy working relationships should be able to withstand light criticism. The key here is to keep any feedback honest, appropriate, and not focused on what someone did wrong, but also where they did right. Avoiding feedback is not a viable way to conduct any professional relationship.

Tip #4: “It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”

Well, Carnegie is 3 for 4 on this. He went about the point a little clunky, but we’re not sure bumper sticker sayings were a thing back then (we looked it up, bumper stickers wouldn’t be invented until 1946) but yes, perception is everything. How you perceive a situation is your reality and that’s what shapes your decisions. No one else can do that for you, and we suggest that you focus on how you can improve what stands to be improved, rather than wallow in the negative. When your perception comes from a place of positivity, it affects your entire outlook. You see possibilities rather than setbacks, and overall this makes you more open to suggestions and new ways of thinking.

We’ll be honest, we were hoping for some really hokey, outdated, and slightly weird advice to share with you and riff on, but what we found was some pretty solid, timeless advice on how to succeed in the workplace (and make friends!) Next time, we’ll go farther back into the archives, but for better or for worse, Carnegie knew what was up.

Agree, disagree? Let us know in the comments below.