A seventy year old sales manual is not an obvious first choice for a therapist's bookshelf, but this is no ordinary sales manual. How to Win Friends & Influence People offers ways to make people like you, to win people to your way of thinking and to change people without giving offence or arousing resentment, achievements as useful to therapists and our clients as to salespeople.
Written in 1936 by Dale Carnegie, a public speaking coach, the book summarises twenty years of training courses and advice for salespeople and their managers. The language of the book is very much of its time, as are the examples Carnegie uses to illustrate his points (you will learn more about US presidents and 1930's gangsters than you ever wanted to know!), but the core messages are timeless.
Carnegie argues that successful outcomes arise from positive relationships, much as Carl Rogers (father of counselling) believed that unconditional positive regard for the client was an essential part of effective therapy.
Carnegie argues that successful outcomes have their roots in collaboration, much as Hubble, Duncan & Miller have identified that the rapport between therapist & client contributes as much to the outcome of therapy as the therapist's technique and apparent expertise combined.
Carnegie's message has been parodied and criticised as "Learn to be sincere...even if you have to fake it". How to Win Friends & Influence People has been characterised as a textbook for manipulation, not surprisingly for a sales manual. Throughout the book, Carnegie emphasises that the compliments, perspective taking and disclosures he recommends should be genuine attempts to achieve mutual benefit (whether closing a major contract or buying a train ticket), although the techniques could easily be applied cynically.
This emphasis upon shared benefit has a useful spin-off. Many of my clients with low self esteem and low social confidence have found traditional assertiveness books and courses too strident in their claims to "help you get what you want". Carnegie's emphasis on win-win interactions has proved much more attractive and effective.
Carnegie, D (1981) How to Win Friends and Influence People. Cedar: London.