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SOCIAL INFLUENCE, 2008, 3 (2), 132142

Historical foundations of social effectiveness? Dale Carnegies principles

Allison Duke
Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, USA

Milorad M. Novicevic
University of Mississippi, University, MS, USA
Dale Carnegie has been credited as the first to formulate principles of how to work with and through others. With the recent interest in constructs that focus on social effectiveness, one may question whether these new conceptions are distinctly different from the principles Carnegie introduced 70 years ago. The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which the latest social effectiveness constructs resonate with the ideas that Dale Carnegie formulated as principles in How to Win Friends and Influence People to demonstrate the timeless significance of this work.
Keywords: Dale Carnegie; Social effectiveness; Emotional intelligence; Political skill; Influence.

The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee. And I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun. John D. Rockefeller (Klein, 2004, p. 115) When Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936, the United States had just experienced some of the most dramatic moments in history. World War I had ended with the Treaty of Versailles in 1918 (Dale Carnegie Training, 2004) and the nation was enjoying prosperity, price stability, increased productivity, and a dramatic increase in real income for individuals (Alloway, 1966). Women earned the right to vote in 1920, the Scopes trial challenged the theory of creation in 1925, and Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic in 1929 (Dale Carnegie Training, 2004). It appeared as though life in America was at an all-time high.
Address correspondence to: Milorad M. Novicevic, Associate Professor, Department of Management, University of Mississippi, 236 Holman Hall, University, MS 38677, USA. E-mail:
# 2008 Psychology Press, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa business

DOI: 10.1080/15534510801934556



However, all this prosperity came to an end on October 29, 1929, when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Unemployment left over 12 million individuals with no jobs (US Department of Commerce, 1974), businesses failed, families lost their savings, and national morale hit rock bottom (Wren, 1994). Recovery began slowly with President Hoover requesting cooperation from union officials to reduce the hours of workers instead of laying them off. Hoover also attempted to transfer government funds into private business with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. With hard times still prevailing, Franklin D. Roosevelt was voted into office in 1932 with the promise of a New Deal. He asserted Keynesian economics, which fostered consumption as a means of stimulating the economy. He also attempted to re-instill confidence and hope into the lives of Americans by establishing agencies such as Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) (Wren, 1994). The turmoil of the early 1930s changed the social landscape of the US population in dramatic ways as well. People became disillusioned with individualism and more sensitive to collectivist ideas. the notion of the self-made person was rejected as the guarantee of economic order (Wren, 1994, p. 336). One answer to the disillusionment and stress associated with the Depression was Dale Carnegies appeal to get along with others. How to Win Friends and Influence People offered instructions for human relations and a path to success by cooperating with others. So successful was Dale Carnegie at influencing people himself that on a cold night in January 1935, 2500 peoplemen and women who lived in a depression where 20% of the population received reliefcrowded into a ballroom in the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York in response to a full-page announcement in the New York Sun: Learn to Speak Effectively: Prepare for Leadership (Carnegie, 1936, p. 233). Those in attendance were the executives, employers, and professionals who yearned for education on getting along with others (Carnegie, 1936) as a means to overcome the harsh conditions they were enduring. Perhaps these participants later joined those who helped the United States fight back from the Depression. Although Dale Carnegies instruction was a welcome remedy in the 1930s, it has continued to be a fundamental source of guidance for business professionals. Coined as the grandfather of self-help books, How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. British Life magazine named Carnegies best-seller as the #1 business book of the century (Dale Carnegie Training, 2004), and today on, it is still #10 on the business best-sellers list. Building on the popularity of this publication, a plethora of management books has emerged in recent



years to address social influence at work. Some of the more popular books promote a variety of social influence constructs including social intelligence, emotional intelligence, and political skill (Ferris, Perrewe, & Douglas, 2002). Recent research has considered these and other social influence constructs to be elements of the social effectiveness umbrella, which includes those stable social traits that significantly influence the affective and behavioral reactions of individuals in organizational settings (Semadar, Robins, & Ferris, 2006, p. 444). With this resurgence of interest in social effectiveness, one question arises: Are these constructs novel conceptions or do they simply echo Carnegies original principles? The current paper attempts to provide one answer to this question by examining the parallels between current social effectiveness constructs and the ideas Carnegie formulated 70 years ago.


In the introduction of How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie provides readers with his reasons for publishing the book. In 1912, Carnegie began training adults on the art of public speaking. What he realized during these sessions was that while adults needed training in effective speaking, what they needed more was training in social effectivenesshow to get along with others in daily business and social interactions. Research done by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching found that even in technical jobs like engineering, only about 15% of a persons financial success is based on technical knowledge. The other 85 percent is due to skill in human engineeringto personality and the ability to lead people (Carnegie, 1936, p. vi). After an extensive search for a practical textbook to address this need in the classroom, not one book was uncovered. Since no other texts were available, Carnegie decided to write his own handbook for human relations. To prepare for the book he read everything about human relations he could findfrom newspapers to philosophy to psychology. He also hired a trained researcher to visit various libraries and read anything he had misseda project that took a year and a half. Additionally, Carnegie interviewed some of the most renowned leaders and successful people of the twentieth century including Marconi, Edison, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Clark Gable. This research turned into a 1K-hour talk that Carnegie presented to adults who participated in courses at the Carnegie Institute in New York. After 24 years of training and research, the book was completed in 1936. In this book Carnegie argued that the rules he presented were not theories or guesswork. They work like magic. Incredible as it sounds, I have seen the



application of these principles literally revolutionize the lives of many people (1936, p. viii). Several anecdotal illustrations follow. One story described a man who criticized and condemned his employees until he went to one of Carnegies courses. After putting Carnegies principles into practice, his employees portrayed new loyalty, enthusiasm, and teamwork. Other stories told of salespeople who experienced sharp increases in sales, executives who received greater authority and pay, and spouses who reported happier homes since their significant other began training with Carnegies Institute. With such positive feedback, it is no wonder that businesspeople have flocked to this book for 70 years. So what are these principles that purportedly achieve great success for ordinary people? Carnegie presents the material in four parts. Part one includes fundamental techniques in handling people. Part two offers six ways to make people like you. Part three shows how to win people to your way of thinking. Finally, part four describes how to be a leader: how to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment. Each part consists of a number of principles to put into action to make success a reality.

Fundamental techniques in handling people

Three principles are discussed in part one: (1) Dont criticize or complain. (2) Give honest, sincere appreciation. (3) Arouse in the other person an eager want. Carnegie suggests that any fool can criticize, condemn, and complainand most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving (p. 13). He argues that we should try to understand why people do what they do, which will breed sympathy, tolerance, and kindness. Being sincere in ones appreciation is also important. Appreciation is sincere, from the heart out, and unselfish. Flattery, on the other hand, is insincere, from the teeth out, and selfish. Furthermore, flattery rarely works with discerning people. Therefore, to err on the side of appreciation is one way to achieve success. Finally, one who can arouse an eager want in others has the whole world with him (p. 47). When we have a brilliant idea, instead of making others think it is ours, why not let them cook and stir the idea themselves. They will then regard it as their own; they will like it and maybe eat a couple of helpings of it (p. 47).

Six ways to make people like you

We all know people who try to get others to like them. Unfortunately, for these people, it often fails. People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselvesmorning, noon, and after dinner (p. 52). So if thats the case, it must be difficult to make other



people like you. Carnegie, however, argues for an overarching principle of making people like you and presents six ways of how to do just that: (1) Become genuinely interested in other people. (2) Smile. (3) Remember that a persons name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. (4) Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. (5) Talk in terms of the other persons interests. (6) Make the other person feel importantand do it sincerely. Throughout this section Carnegie references several examples of how these techniques of making people like you work in reality. One man implemented Carnegies strategy of smiling to others and experienced a revolution in his marriage. He told Carnegie that he was a totally different man, one who was richer in friendships and happinessthe things that really count. Another gentleman simply called a customer his entire name, Mr. Nicodemus Papadoulous. This simple act brought the customer to tears because he had lived in the country for 15 years without anyone ever calling him by his right name. Carnegie himself reaped the benefits of being a good listener. He tells of a distinguished botanist he met at a dinner party. Carnegie sat on the edge of his chair and listened to this botanist talk for hours. At midnight, as Carnegie was leaving, the botanist made an effort to pay him several compliments to the host by saying he was the most interesting conversationalist (p. 81). And Carnegie had said hardly anything.

How to win people to your way of thinking

Nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever that he is absolutely right. You cant win an argument. You cant because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it (p. 110). Why? Because while you may feel fine if you win the argument, the other person has been made to feel inferior and will resent your victory. Thus, Carnegie presents 12 keys to win people to your way of thinking without arguing and without making the other person lose face: (1) The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. (2) Show respect for the other persons opinions. Never say, Youre wrong. (3) If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. (4) Begin in a friendly way. (5) Get the other person saying yes, yes immediately. (6) Let the other person do a great deal of the talking. (7) Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers. (8) Try honestly to see things from the other persons point of view. (9) Be sympathetic with the other persons ideas and desires. (10) Appeal to the nobler motives. (11) Dramatize your ideas. (12) Throw down a challenge. Suggestions such as saying I may be wrong. I frequently am. Lets examine the facts (p. 117) offer readers alternatives to their natural



instincts of simply telling another person theyre wrong. Carnegie also quotes some historical figures including Abraham Lincoln who said, A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall. So with men, if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend (p. 137). Walking in another mans shoes is often hard to do, but readers are encouraged to remember that other people may be completely wrong, but they dont think so. Another recommendation for winning people to your way of thinking is to give people what they want: sympathy. Carnegie suggests feeling sorry for people and telling them I dont blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you I would undoubtedly feel just as you do (p. 166). Words like these, when spoken to another, will make people love you. Finally, if all else fails, throw down a challenge. Charles Schwab said, The way to get things done is to stimulate competition ... in the desire to excel (p. 185). This is the way to appeal to people. The chance to prove his or her worth, to excel, to win. That is what makes footraces and hog-calling and pie-eating contests (p. 187).

Be a leader: How to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment

Leaders are often faced with situations that require them to change the attitudes and behavior of their followers. Carnegie advocates nine principles for doing just that: (1) Begin with praise and honest appreciation. (2) Call attention to peoples mistakes indirectly. (3) Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person. (4) Ask questions instead of giving direct orders. (5) Let the other person save face. (6) Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise. (7) Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. (8) Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct. (9) Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest. Beginning with praise is like the dentist who begins his work with Novocain. The patient still gets a drilling, but the Novocain is pain-killing (p. 196). Therefore, a leader should begin with praise and honest appreciation. Leaders should also avoid giving orders by giving people the opportunity to do things themselves and letting them learn from their mistakes. Instead of Do this try You might consider this. Simply rephrasing can make it easy for others to correct errors and save face. Leaders should also praise instead of criticize. Abilities wither under criticism; they blossom under encouragement (p. 217). Perhaps most importantly, a leader must make others happy to do the things they suggest. This can be done by being sincere, knowing exactly what you want the other person to do, being empathetic, considering the benefits the person will get



from your request, matching those benefits with the persons wants, and putting the request in a form that will convey how the person will personally benefit.


Social effectiveness of individuals is a broad concept considered to be a critically important factor for career success. Indeed, Wayne, Liden, Graf, and Ferris (1997) found that social effectiveness was a strong predictor of job performance ratings and promotability in a sample of over 1400 employees in various jobs. Most of the constructs categorized into the broader conceptualization of social effectiveness have two common aspects: (1) cognitive understanding or savvy, and (2) behavioral aspect that gives one the ability to act on such understanding in an adaptive fashion (Ferris et al., 2005b). Unfortunately, little work has been done to classify the various constructs that make up the broader social effectiveness umbrella along these two aspects. Rather, focused efforts have been made to gain a greater understanding of the different constructs that have emerged in recent years such as social intelligence, emotional intelligence, political skill, practical intelligence, self-monitoring, and other related constructs. Of this list of social effectiveness constructs, two have gained significant attention in both the popular press and academic research: emotional intelligence and political skill. A recent search in Business Source Complete revealed that the quantity of literature on these two constructs was more than double that of any other social effectiveness construct. Thus, this section will examine these two aspects of social effectiveness in relation to Carnegies principles of influence.

Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence has received a great deal of attention in the past decade owing to Golemans (1995, 1998) best-selling books on this subject. Goleman (1995) argued that emotional intelligence included abilities such as self-control, delayed gratification, mood regulation, and empathy. He also suggested that managing ones own and others emotions was the central component of handling relationships, which was the central focus of Carnegies principles as well. Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso (2004) defined emotional intelligence as the capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions to enhance thinking (p. 197). Furthermore, they identified four branches of emotional intelligence: the ability to (a) perceive emotion, (b) use emotion to facilitate thought, (c) understand emotions, and (d) manage emotion (p. 199). The first branch, the ability to perceive emotion, is an individuals ability to



recognize the emotions of others through their facial and other nonverbal expressions. The second branch, facilitation, involves identifying which emotions best facilitate solving certain types of problems. The third branch, understanding emotions, reflects the capacity to analyze emotions, appreciate their probable trends over time, and understand their outcomes (p. 199). Finally, the fourth branch, managing emotion, involves understanding what triggers ones own emotions and how to manage others emotions to achieve desired outcomes. Taken together, the branches of emotional intelligence have strong echoes of Carnegies principles. For example, Carnegies principles of smiling, remembering names, and encouraging others to talk about themselves suggests that one may be able to manage others emotions by stimulating feelings of importance. Simple principles such as beginning in a friendly way, letting the other person feel that the idea is his or hers, and arousing in the other person an eager want also suggest that understanding the emotions of others may be one source of influence. Therefore, individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence would be more likely to win friends and influence people.

Political skill
Political skill is a style of interaction that allows you to read situations, interpret them, and exhibit just the right kind of behavior to induce others to do what you want and do it willingly, as if it were their idea (Ferris, Davidson, & Perrewe, 2005a, p. ix). Recent studies have suggested that political skill may be an important asset that helps individuals navigate the political environments within organizations (Ferris, Perrewe, Anthony, & Gilmore, 2000). Indeed, Pfeffer (1981) argued that political skill was necessary to be effective against the ambiguity and instability inherent in political organizations. Mintzberg (1983) also asserted that organizations are political arenas that require political will and political skill. Such political skill involves the influence of others through negotiation, manipulation, and persuasion (Mintzberg, 1983). Political skill is not a unidimensional trait or skill. Rather, it is considered to be an integrated composite of internally consistent and compatible skills and ability that create a synergic social dynamic (Ferris et al., 2000). Ferris and his associates (2005) identified four dimensions of political skill: social astuteness, interpersonal influence, networking ability, and apparent sincerity. Each of these dimensions display distinct parallels to the principles Carnegie asserted. Social astuteness. Social astuteness refers to the perceptive observations of others, such that individuals who are socially astute can successfully



interpret the behavior of themselves and others (Ferris et al., 2005b). Carnegie, as a discerning observer of people across diverse social situations, recognized that most people are biased with self-enhancement and thus avoid criticizing themselves. Consequently, someone elses criticism hurts peoples pride and their sense of self-importance. This understanding is the foundation of his first principle not to criticize, condemn, or complain. The avoidance of criticism reflects ones self-awareness and sensitivity to others (Pfeffer, 1992, p. 173), thus reflecting a high degree of social astuteness in social situations. Interpersonal influence. Interpersonal influence is the ability to adapt and regulate behaviors based on the situation in order to achieve the desired responses from others (Ferris et al., 2005b). For Carnegie, interpersonal influence is about conveying attitudes in a subtle and convincing way, rather than about explaining ideas (Parker, 1977). He believed that individuals could elicit particular responses from others by arousing an eager want. This, he argued, could be done by creating a supportive environment in which others feel comfortable being an active participant. Many of Carnegies principles echo the premise of interpersonal influence such as letting the other person do a great deal of the talking, letting the other person feel that the idea is his or hers, being sympathetic with the other persons ideas and desires, and showing respect for the other persons opinions. Networking ability. Networking ability occurs when individuals develop a system of coalitions and alliances because of their ease in building friendships, especially those that will create opportunities that have future benefits (Ferris et al., 2005b). For effective networking, one should follow the sound of silencewhat to say and what not to say when forming friendships, advice alliances, and formal coalitions with others. When developing social capital for enhanced reputation and influence, ones focus should not be on others thoughts, but on others emotions. In Carnegies words, when dealing with people, let us remember that we are not dealing with creatures of logic; we are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity (1936, p. 41). Therefore, the techniques of smiling, remembering names, and good listening are the foundation of Carnegies overarching principle of the need to make people like you when you network with them. Such techniques may help secure the benefits of the relationship if and when they are needed. Apparent sincerity. Apparent sincerity refers to ones ability to appear authentic and genuine with no hidden motives or intentions (Ferris et al., 2005b). Carnegie recognized the importance of giving due credit through



appreciation, not flattery. Appreciation is not about telling others exactly what they think about themselves, but telling them the truth. This is the foundation of Carnegies principle to give honest and sincere praise. Expressing appreciation makes ones sincerity apparent, avoids perceptions of hypocrisy, and inspires trust and confidence in others (Ferris et al., 2005a, p. 12). Additionally, Carnegie recommends becoming genuinely interested in other people. By doing this, the sincerity of ones actions will be more apparent to others.

As the first to formulate the principles of how to work with and through others (Ferris et al., 2005a, p. 7), it is not surprising that Carnegies techniques are reflected in two specific social effectiveness constructs: emotional intelligence and political skill. Recurring themes include understanding the thoughts and behaviors of others, monitoring ones own and others emotions, regulating behavior to get the desired responses from others, being sincere and genuine, looking at things from others points of view. It seems that 70 years of research and the development of dozens of constructs have only reinforced the evergreen significance of Dale Carnegies principles. Therefore, in modern times of disruptive technological innovations, accelerating globalization, and a hypercompetitive marketplace, politically savvy business leaders can still hold fast to this seminal publication that has stood the test of time.
Manuscript received 27 October 2007 Manuscript accepted 18 January 2008 First published online 29 April 2008

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