It’s amazing how one book or one story has the potential to completely change your focus and your mindset. This one book for me was “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. Before reading this book, I was always seen as being defensive and taking everything as a personal attack. There were so many angry days at work, full of me being pissed off at someone for any number of reasons.
I learned so much from reading the book that I was able to change how I reacted to the people around me and was even able to get promoted a few times at work. Taking it outside of work, I have much more control of my reactions and interactions with people. Sometimes it just takes a change in perspective, and a little growing up, to improve your life.
Finding Dale Carnegie
It was sometime in 2012 or 2013 when we stumbled into a beautiful used book store in Downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. We had a few hours to kill before needing to catch our red-eye back to Orlando, and I was surprisingly able to convince hubby to browse with me. Fast forward about an hour, and we’ve walked through the sections that we were interested in, and grabbed a couple books to take home. It was on our way to the register when we walked past the self-help section (one of my favorite sections). I saw this beautiful old book that definitely had some wear and when I pulled it out, it was Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, with the well-worn dust cover inside the book.
To understand why this book was so impactful for me, you have to understand my mindset before reading the book. There was a time in my life when I felt like everyone was always out for themselves and wanted to take advantage of those who truly just wanted to help. There were several times when I would help someone only to have them throw me under the bus or stab me in the back afterward. The more this happened, the angrier I became.
Reading the book
Once I started reading the book, I couldn’t put it down. So many of the stories he told were relatable in some fashion to what I was going through at the time or had gone through in the past. These were people in the 1930s who were having to deal with rude entitled customers and people who didn’t know how to keep their thoughts and comments to themselves. So, while the stories were not the same, the problems were. I had been told so many times that you cannot change people, you can only change how you react to them. Dale Carnegie took that statement one step further and gave examples and actionable steps to take in those situations. Each tip was accompanied by a story that helped me to see at what point in the interaction to take those steps. That was the critical piece.
Shortly after reading the book, we were having an issue at work and I had to take action. I had to send an email to the whole company reminding them of something that I’d been telling them for years. Instead of accusing them of not listening and causing the problem, I framed it as a reminder that we all need sometimes, including myself. That email was well received and prompted an email from my VP letting me know that he thought the email was well written. That was the first instance of proof that the strategies work. Many more have followed since. While I need reminders occasionally, I try to use the strategies regularly. Since my first email, I have been able to diffuse several situations that would have previously triggered an angry reaction. I feel a lot less stress now and can think through difficult situations more effectively. Since that time, I have been promoted several times and I truly believe that the skills I learned in this book were a key influencing factor.
If you have not read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, I highly suggest you read it ASAP. If you have read it, there is a book summary on Audible that is great for a refresher. These skills are key to your success, and they’re so easy to learn.
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