Time Tested Networking Tips That Actually Work

Photo by Michelle Terris

Dale Carnegie published “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in 1936. Despite the dated language and references, the book has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time. Even billionaire business magnate Warren Buffett credits the book’s tips for his success. When he was twenty, he took one of Carnegie’s courses, which he said in the HBO documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett” transformed his life.

It’s important to keep in mind modern rules about networking and influencing, but it doesn’t hurt to look to history to see what has worked in the past. Below are a few tips from “How to Win Friends and Influence People” that still holds true today.

Avoid the three “C’’s

Negativity breeds negativity. Don’t criticize. Don’t condemn. Don’t complain.

“It takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving,” Carnegie wrote. “Any fool can do these things, and most fools do.”  

Carnegie went on to explain that dealing with problems in a constructive manner that encouraged improvement rather than inferiority makes all the difference in establishing and maintaining respect from both colleagues and subordinates.

Understand the value of healthy competition.

During the early 1900s, steel magnate Charles Schwab wanted his employees to produce more steel, but not even the threat of firing them worked.

According to Carnegie’s book, Schwab devised a simple plan that was effective and didn’t cost him a cent. One day, as the day crew finished their work, Schwab asked the team how many units they produced during their shift.

“Six,” he was told.

Schwab drew a large “6” on the chalkboard in the break room and left without another word. When the night crew came in, they asked what the number meant. The day crew explained that the boss had been in and recorded the number of units they produced.

The next morning, Schwab saw that the number had been changed to a “7.” The night crew had increased their output by one. Schwab had created a rivalry between the day and night crew simply by recording their output for everyone to see, which played on his employees desire to enhance the status of their own team. It’s a strategy many large organizations still follow today.

Encourage people to talk about themselves.

Carnegie said that most people loosen up in tense situations when they are given the ability to talk about themselves. It’s why employers today still instruct individuals to rattle off some personal facts about themselves when interviewing them.

Listening to someone establishes a connection of trust, Carnegie explained. “Listening closely to someone is one of the highest compliments we can pay anyone.”

Know when to use suggestions instead of directions.

1920s industrialist and businessman Owen D. Young taught Carnegie the importance of suggestion over direction. When he wanted his employees or colleagues to do something, he’d ask, “How do you think we should accomplish x,?” or, “You might consider…”

He knew it was better to encourage critical thinking among subordinates than to establish power by force. In doing so, he earned respect from his employees because they knew he valued their intellect; in turn, they worked diligently for him because they wanted to make him proud.

Don’t try to win an argument.

Even if you manage to tear apart a person’s argument, you don’t actually “win” anything, Carnegie said. In short, he meant that resentment from another is not worth pride.

“If you’re looking to actually persuade someone, avoid an argument in the first place”

Get other people to think your idea is their own.

“No one can be forced to believe something,” Carnegie wrote, “unless they assume the idea is their own.” That’s why the most influential people know the power of suggestions over demands.

“Plant the seed,” Carnegie said. “And then avoid to take credit once it’s bloomed.”


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