100 Best Books for an Education

A Revision and Update of Will Durant's 100 Best Books for an Education

Note 99



Dale Carnegie’s Three Commandments on Social Living


The epitome of the American dream personified, Dale Carnegie rose from being a poor Missouri farm boy to international success who made millions by training executives (and everyone else!) on “how to win friends and influence people.” His brainchild was initially based on public speaking (later he expanded it to include salesmanship and psychology), a skill which he mastered as a member of the Warrensburg (Ohio) State Teachers College debate team. If it conferred on him confidence, he reasoned, why not offer it to others so they too would have confidence? After brief periods as a pork products salesperson and as an actor in a road show, Carnegie started teaching a course in public speaking at the 125th Street YMCA in New York City in 1912. It was a sensation and eventually resulted in his best-selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People.*

    The genesis of the book began in 1934. Leon Shimkin from Simon and Schuster showed up at a Carnegie event and was fascinated by his techniques. Shimkin suggested to Carnegie that he author a book and suggested as a working title The Art of Getting Along with People. Carnegie, who had presented two books before to Simon and Schuster for publication and had been rebuffed, at first declined but Shimkin persevered and ultimately Carnegie acquiesced.

    Carnegie was a meticulous writer who rewrote each line many times. To create his book, he applied ideas from advice columnist Dorothy Dix, renowned psychologists such as William James and Alfred Adler among others, celebrated successes such as business tycoons, politicians, and famous philosophers, and his own students, who by the thousands reported to him about their personal experiences. The straightforward idea behind this world-shaking philosophy is to remember the other person’s point of view (the honey-versus-vinegar method of human relations). Of course, there are corollaries such as “Be indirect in criticizing, direct in praising, and communicate in a friendly manner” etc. Another bon mot is “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Finally, after two years of writing and rewriting, he presented the manuscript to Simon and Schuster for the book that was to become How to Win friends and Influence People. It was accepted.

    Carnegie was famous for giving numbered lists of ways to (1) make people like you; (2) win people to your way of thinking; (3) change people without giving offense or arousing resentment; and (4) make your home life happier. Fundamentally, all his rules boil down to three “commandments” and their associated corollaries:

1. Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.

            a. If you must criticize, do it indirectly. Strive not to argue.

            b. Confess your own mistakes before you jump on the other person’s.

            c. Ask questions as an alternative to giving direct orders.

            d. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.

            e. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “you're wrong.”

            f. Let people “save face.” If you have an idea you want someone to accept,  let him think the idea is his.

            g. Use encouragement. Make the other person’s fault seem easy to correct.

            h. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.

            i. In marriage, don’t nag, try to make your partner over, or criticize them,  and be courteous; finally, read a good book on the sexual side of marriage.


2. Give honest, sincere appreciation.

            a. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.

            b. Become genuinely interested in others.

            c. Try to see things from their point of view.

            d. Smile.

            e. “Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important   sound in any language.”

            f. Be a good listener by letting others do a good deal of the talking, whether about themselves or their interests.

            g. Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely by avoiding flattery. Praise people as much as possible, and if you’re trying to change someone, praise even slight improvements. “Be hearty in your approbations and lavish in your praise.”


3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

            a. Begin by communicating in a friendly manner with them.

            b. Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.

            c. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

            d. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.

            e. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.

            f. Appeal to “nobler motives.” Provide an example in your own behavior.

            g. Dramatize your ideas.

            h. If you are trying to win someone to your way of thinking, as a last resort, throw down a challenge (the “I bet you can’t do it” approach).

            i. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to and emulate.

            j. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.


The first edition of the book broke into print in 1936. It contained an introduction by Lowell Thomas and a dedication to Carnegie’s friend Homer Cory, who hailed from Carnegie's hometown, was a journalist working in New York, and who had inspired Carnegie's ambitions as a writer. Shimkin presented copies to the new graduates of Carnegie's course who then loaned it to their friends giving rise to thousands of new orders. Shimkin also purchased full-page ads in the New York Times. Very rapidly, the book achieved sales of 5,000 copies a week and made The New York Times bestsellers list.

    Carnegie was stunned at the huge success of the book. It led to him writing a newspaper column. Additionally, the book’s huge sales increased the turnout at his course program. The Dale Carnegie Courses were eventually conducted in ninety different countries. Over the years more than eight million people have completed the fourteen-week course, many of whom (including celebrities) acclaiming it and offering uncompensated testimonials.

    All of this resulted because we often forget to remember the other person’s point of view!

*Over fifty million copies were eventually printed and sold in thirty-eight languages. 

An excellent starting point would be, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).