I used to work at McDonalds when I was in high school. Most people would come in quite grumpy, demanding their order, strolling in as kings and queens of high society. One day, an old lady came into our store and ordered a decaf coffee. I was only recently hired, and accidently gave her caffeinated coffee. To my dismay and utter humiliation, she yelled at me at the top of her lungs screaming, "do you want me to hang a sign outside that says Mason doesn't care about old people?". No amount of apology could have saved me, but would I go out of my way to help her outside of what was absolutely necessary? Nope. So why should I expect that anyone else would be so kind? Why should you? If you really want to influence people and get them to do something, it takes skillful tact. Dale Carnegie's classic: How to Win Friends and Influence People teaches you all the skills needed.
I've always had an acute interest in people and how to deal with them. Unlike computers, people always change and are incredibly unpredictable. However, there are some truths that are in almost every person I've met. While I've always had allusions as to what makes people tick, Dale Carnegie makes it concrete. The best part is that it's filled with entertaining stories that really make the lessons stand out and show you the value of learning to deal with people.
One story revolves around the principle that everyone needs the feeling of being appreciated. If you can provide genuine appreciation, you can wield unprecedented power over anyone. A teacher in Detroit asked a young man to help her find a mouse in her classroom. Too bad the man was blind. However, he was given the gift of incredible ears, and the teacher let the young man know she appreciated those ears in helping find that mouse. From that day on, the young man's life was changed as he developed his listening abilities. Who is this person? Stevie Wonder.
While most of the stories and skills are applied in the context of business, the tenets are effective in any situation. In order to apply Dale's principles, I did some social experimenting and realized how amazingly effective they were.
I was recently at a party, and Dale says that "Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language". I was astonished at how much smoother conversations were by simply dropping a person's name in a sentence here and there. Tension evaporated as people let their initial guard down much faster than usual. Who doesn't like stroking their own ego? What about the simple "Smile" technique? I was at the gym doing some six-pack abs training (ha!), and noticed at the person next to me was in a similar situation. Both of our stomachs were aching in pain. A simple "hello" with a big smile allowed me to strike up a conversation in between workout repetitions. This made the time in the gym pass much much faster. Would complaining and a frown have yielded the same results? Probably not.
So there you have it. I can't even give this book a highly recommended. This book is an essential for EVERYONE to read. If you haven't bought it yet, stop reading this and go buy it now. It's so awesome, I'm going to give you the link to Amazon again. It's cheap as hell, $8! Even a poor grad student can afford it, so you don't really have an excuse. After you read it, I suggest you print out the summary from Wikipedia and hang it.