The deepest urge in human nature is ‘the desire to be important.’
– The only self-help book you’ll ever need.
Read if you: Want to improve every relationship you have.
How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the best selling self-help books of all time, and with good reason. Its advice is timeless, practical, and applicable to everyone.
I am setting a goal of re-reading this book at the start of every year, This is the second time I’ve read it. as a reminder to myself about how any ambitions I have for the new year will be made so much easier by improved people skills.
The books is dense with advice, far too much to distill into a single review or take in and process in a single reading. I’m choosing instead to focus on a few key points that stood out to me. On this re-read, that was:
- Everyone wants to be important.
- Good conversationalists are the ones who spend the most time listening, not the most time talking.
In my own life, these are the truths that have lately been the most apparent to me. My house is full of small children right now, and their desire to be important is shouted through their every action. They love being given responsibility The pride a toddler takes in throwing away a banana peel is delightful. and authority, and I’m working to every day find a new way for them to realize their importance.
Similarly, I have always struggled with interrupting others and using discussions as a pulpit. When talking with someone, I often find myself impatiently waiting my turn to butt in and preach about the topic at hand. Surely everyone will be awed by my insights and opinions! However, as Dale Carnegie points out, the people usually seen as the best conversationalists are usually the people who do the most listening, not the most talking.
This counter-intuitive point is born out in an examination of the most memorable conversations I’ve been a part of. What stands out in every single instance is the intent and focused attention the other person had for me. They weren’t waiting for their turn, they were completely engaged with what I was saying to them. Most of the time I can’t remember anything they actually said, just their gift of their attention and recognition.
This is not to say that one should never speak. My memories is full of equally striking examples of great storytellers and orators who riveted me with boisterous tales. The key is knowing when to talk and when to listen. Near as I can tell, the correct play is almost always to let the other person speak first, only taking command of the conversation as a last resort.
I’ll be working these two principles into my daily life as I can. I’ve never been steered wrong by any of Dale Carnegie’s advice, and I always come away from How to Win Friends inspired to seize a more animated and enjoyable life.