Book Review: How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegre

Disclaimer: I draw connections between Dale Carnegre’s book and teaching. This piece is also a reflection on how the book helps me to understand my own environment.

Behavioural psychology is fascinating to us all. What makes each person tick? Why are some people more successful than others? How do I become more influential?

I was sitting on a plane coming back to Sydney from visiting my partner. I normally do not speak to other people on flights. I have, however, recently felt more interested and inclined to talk to new people. At the time, I was half way through Carnegre’s book. To my surprise, the lady next to me had worked for Carnegre’s company! She ran workshops based on the principles in his book to help people take control of their approach to dealing with people and develop influence to those around them. She had worked for the company for over 10 years. I immediately noticed the delicate manner in which she spoke. Calm, questioning and careful of her choice of words.

Dale’s first principle, “Don’t criticise, condemn or complain” resonates with us all. I am certain that no one is perfect at this, yet, if we don’t take control of our own lives why should others listen to us? I have come to understand that there is always more than one solution and way of approaching a situation. Some ways are better than others at achieving your objective. Before you act, clarify the purpose of your action. Is your method really going to achieve that for you? Easier said than done of course. In a tense situation, emotions can be overwhelming. Still I believe, it is about continual practice and reflection upon this principle.

Recognise other people’s “desire to be important”. Dale quotes John Dewey, a renowned American philosopher who is influential in educational theory. Listen and have conversations with others about what they want. It is a interesting activity at the least, and at best you may have acknowledged and praised someone for something no one else has bothered to show interest about. This expresses your humanity and in my opinion, makes you a greater person. Take a genuine interest in other people.

If you wish to achieve your goals, it is worthwhile understanding what other people’s goals are. I believe it takes a special person to help light the way for others to also achieve their goals. This may be the strongest affinity I have for pursuing a career as a teacher. After beginning this journey, I have realised how complex the discipline is and how I need to develop myself daily in order to achieve the best results in my ambitions.

Caveat: A relationship with fire

Fire is produced in a combustion reaction. A combustion reaction requires a fuel (e.g. wood, fossil fuels etc.) and oxygen. In the absence of oxygen, a fire will die out. A principal of an all boys school used the flames of fire as an analogy for the phenomena currently occurring with graduate teachers. In the teaching profession, keen young teachers enter the workplace high on ideals and burning with passion and enthusiasm. What happens over time is the more the teachers give to their students, the more drained their energy supply became. There term commonly used for this phenomena is ‘teacher burnout’. One of the reasons this happens is because teachers are not taking time to replenish their flames of passions and for taking care of their mental/emotional/physical wellbeing. Without proper attention, work life can get out of control and take over from the work-life balance we need to maintain. 


Dan Meyer in his TEDtalk declares a frightening truth within mathematics education.

“I teach high school math. I sell a product to a market that doesn’t want it but is forced by law to buy it.” 

Dan Meyer

How do we inspire for our students the eagerness to learn, the boldness to pursue and the resilience to try again when they have failed. We may set SMART goals, we praise excellence and we may even encourage some competition to fuel our students’ desire to be acknowledged. We are critical of ourselves as teachers, changing our methods for different classes of students and giving additional attention for students who require it. Ultimately, our approach aims at acknowledging each student’s strengths and developing strategies to help students achieve their academic goals.

There is a quote in Carnegre’s book that has stood out to me and has challenged how I approach conversations.

“A man convinced against his will

Is of the same opinion still.”

Dale Carnegre

I am a culprit of always wanting to be right and winning the argument. Who doesn’t? However, there is no value in angry and relentless fires from both sides rather it is much more valuable to listen, empathise and to seek understanding. Could it be likely that both parties have some correct views? Your opponent is not listening so do not force it down their throat. Hold on to your thoughts and watch your own reaction to the situation.

An interesting read with many practical applications!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *