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Literature / How to Win Friends and Influence People

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How to Win Friends and Influence People is a self-help book by Dale Carnegie, which, as its title says, is meant to help the reader win friends and influence people.

Originally released in 1936, it was a bestseller for ten years straight and sold over 40 million copies as of 2010.


How to Win Friends and Influence People provides examples of:

  • 90% of Your Brain: Carnegie says that "The average person develops only 10 percent of his latent mental ability" and has been credited as contributing to this myth.
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  • Action-Hogging Opening: The book begins with a description of Francis Crowley's gun-blasting last stand with the police.
  • Artistic License – History: Carnegie interprets/reinterprets several historical events so he can push his message. When Lincoln and Shields prepared for their duel, Carnegie simply claims that the witnesses stopped it from happening. However, it's been remembered that the main reason for the duel cancellation was that Shields was scared by Lincoln when he saw him easily cutting a branch with his sword, realizing how he would decimate him.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Carnegie begins the book by describing the arrest and career of criminal Francis "Two Gun" Crowley, claiming that he thought he only defended himself from the police and was unfairly executed afterwards. Notably, he quotes a letter he left behind as "Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one — one that would do nobody any harm." Newspapers from the time actually quote his letter saying "When I die, put a lily in my hand, let the boys know how they'll look. Under my coat will lay a weary, kind heart that wouldn't hurt anything. I hadn't anything else to do, that's why I went around bumping off cops. It's the new sensations of the films..." Therefore, he was describing that he would have a kind heart and not hurt anybody because he would be dead.
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  • Brutal Honesty: Carnegie strongly advises against that. If you need to tell someone that they're doing something wrong, better sugarcoat it and start soft.
  • Easily Forgiven: Carnegie cites several historical people who easily forgave those who wronged them, giving them another chance, such as Bob Hoover letting a young man, who mistakenly put kerosene instead of fuel in his plane - and thus endangering his life - work for him again. Why? Because holding a grudge is unhealthy and unproductive.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It’s a book of methods for winning friends and influencing people.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: Carnegie describes Crowley more like a troubled young man who was pushed into evil and wouldn't accept his responsabilities, making him Not So Different from regular law-abiding citizens. However, historical records show that he was unusually violent and psychotic throughout his whole life.
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  • Instructional Title: Possibly the Trope Maker or Trope Codifier.
  • Insufferable Genius: Carnegie says that if you try to show other people how smart, how cultured you are, you will come off as insufferable rather than an actual genius.
  • It's All About Me: Carnegie says that people are naturally selfish and self-centered, so when you want to obtain something from someone, or just have them like you, it's better to focus the conversation on themselves or what they personally like.
  • Never My Fault: Carnegie says that most people, by default, will not take responsability for their faults, and criticizing them will only cause backlash. Even if they are violent criminals with blood in their hands.
  • Nice Guy: Carnegie has this as a recurring theme in his philosophy. The best way to persuade people you care about them, it turns out, is to actually care about them.
  • Nominal Importance: Carnegie teaches that it gives a good impression to people when you remember their name, and show it. After all, people are naturally self-centered, and hearing their own names is nice.
  • Not So Different: Carnegie describes criminals and prisoners as not so different from law-abiding citizens, as both would rationalize whatever they do wrong, refusing to acknowledge their mistakes and wrongdoings.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: Carnegie describes that one of the greatest human motivations is wanting to show one's importance, and so he cites many examples of criminals who were mostly interested about seeing their evil deeds immortalized in the news media.
  • Self-Deprecation: Carnegie describes his own reactions to a phone company's letter, and shows he can also get easily frustrated and angry at someone's arrogant tone, while he is worried about missing his train, having health problems and greenflies eating his flowers.
  • Straw Vulcan: Carnegie says that people are mostly guided by their emotions and personal preferences, so attempting to push them with only facts and logic will often fail.

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