Welcome back to The Editor Series! The women behind She Reads are truly inspired by books and every now and then, we come across one that really changes us, makes us feel something or leads us down a new path in life.
In this new addition to the series, our She Reads IGTV regular Courtney talks about the non-fiction book that changed her outlook on life: How to Win Friends & Influence People.
We all have that one book that fell into our hands the moment we needed it the most. For me, that book is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been described as having a “big personality.” Whether intended as an insult or a piece of praise, I’ll be the first to admit I’m prone to talking too loud, laughing too often and, at the age of 23, I still haven’t learned how to sit still or keep my opinions to myself. As a child, I felt that I had so many ideas to contribute to the world, but I didn’t always know how to effectively communicate them to those around me.
I first became acquainted with Dale Carnegie my sophomore year in “Intro to Management 101.” My professor – a self-proclaimed “cool teacher” – assigned the class to read and report on How to Win Friends & Influence People, as it relates to the world of business today. Looking back, I can gather that most of my classmates chose to treat this assignment rather liberally, going no deeper than an online summary.
I, on the other hand, took a different approach.
It took me all of two chapters to fully immerse myself into Carnegie’s teachings. How to Win Friends & Influence Peoplewas written before any of my grandparents were born, yet still holds true today in the principles it so logically lays out. Each idea is backed up with anecdotal examples that are as simple as they are applicable and can be easily integrated into all facets of modern life.
With iconic ideas like Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people and Principle 3: Arouse in the other person an eager want, this book opened my eyes to the importance of interpersonal communication and how critics today are right to call it a dying art. Most significantly, it sparked in me a desire to study this dying art and work to make the ability to effectively communicate with others amongst my strongest assets.
For me, the book was the answer to a question I hadn’t even realized I was asking, my own personal “Age of Enlightenment.” As I read, I began marking and highlighting the key points and examples until the entire book was nothing but a collection of fluorescent marks. It is worth noting that I didn’t change overnight – rather, I slowly began to weave Carnegie’s principles into the innerworkings of my everyday life where I needed it the most.
In 2019, the takeover of technology has ignited a widespread deterioration of basic skills such as human conversation and interaction – and it’s not going away anytime soon. However, I view these societal shortcomings as an opportunity for passionate individuals like myself to step up and advocate for interpersonal communication studies to live on, whether it be in the classroom, or by reading a book like this one.
Today, I am more confident and well-spoken than my “big personality” ever would’ve gotten me to be alone. That said, I’m only 23 and I still have so much to learn and improve upon. In times of discourse, I still consult my dog-eared and spine-cracked copy of How to Win Friends & Influence Peopleand find comfort and solace in the well-marked pages.
If I’ve inspired you to embark upon a journey to improve your own interpersonal communication skills, I leave you with a simple challenge to get you started: this week, when you’re finishing up an errand at your local grocery store, try striking up a meaningful conversation with the clerk. Start with a smile, ask an open-ended question about his or her life and see where it goes. If it leads to a good conversation and you liked the way it made you feel, try picking up a copy of the book and see the tremendous heights it takes you.