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My Dale Carnegie Experiments: Putting ‘How to Win Friends’ Into Action

May 13, 2015 4 min readSelf-Improvement

Like millions before me I read How to Win Friends and Influence People and was blown away by the power of this book. I can’t believe that I hadn’t read it until recently and feel like I have wasted some precious opportunities to optimize certain situations in life.

Some of the stories in the book were so incredible that they seemed almost too good to be true.  I finished the book with two questions:

  • Will this work for me?
  • How can I optimize my life while also optimizing the lives of those around me?

I decided to put Dale’s teachings to good use and start experimenting with new approaches to everyday situations. I like to call these my “Dale Carnegie experiments,” and will update this series as time goes on.

carnegie experiments

The fish and chip experiment

Here in the UK, fish and chip shops are very popular, especially on a Friday night! After a super fun day working with the Buffer team I ravenously trawled through various take-away sites to order fish and chips for me and my girlfriend, Elly.

Expected delivery time: 45+ minutes. What could I do?

I then remembered a fascinating chapter in the book where Dale Carnegie explains the principle of “Giving the other person a fine reputation to live up to.”

This got me thinking.

Once I had ordered the food, I decided to put a different spin on the ‘delivery notes’ box at the end.

Instead of typing “Please deliver to Carpark 3” I wrote

“Hi! Please deliver the food to Carpark 3. I loved your fish and chips last time I ordered and can’t wait to eat them! ☺

25 minutes later I got a phone call from the delivery driver. Not only was this 20 minutes earlier than anticipated but I was received by the owner of the chip shop himself. He got out of the car with a huge smile and gave me a MASSIVE plastic bag. “I have given you a few extras,” he said as he handed it to me. He had indeed given us lots of extras and we couldn’t eat it all!

Not only had I received an excellent level of service, but I had made this gentleman genuinely proud of his trade. He had gone above and beyond for me just because I mentioned that his food tasted great last time. This was a win-win, I think, and both parties left this feeling great about themselves!

The Airbnb experiment

I love Airbnb. I use it religiously whenever I travel and have been a super fan since it first launched in the UK.

About 6 weeks ago, I requested an Airbnb apartment in Copenhagen only to have my request turned down by the host because of an overbooking. I then proceeded to have a bout of bad luck with the following 2 hosts having the same issue. No one was to blame here; it was just part of the game.

I did find, however, that every time I made a request, the full price for my trip was withdrawn from my account despite the trips never happening. By doing this 3 times I had $1000+ missing and no apartment.

I couldn’t afford to have this money in escrow for a couple of weeks, so I decided to reach out to their support team. In the past I might have complained angrily and demanded my money back, but what would that achieve? This time, I thought to myself, “What would Dale Carnegie do in this situation?”

“Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”

These words made me realize that anger, disappointment or any kind of negativity would only make the situation worse. When I reached out via livechat I made sure to compliment Airbnb on their wonderful service before raising my problem as a “mere mishap.”

A lovely lady called Su got back to me almost immediately, and I could tell that she was really happy to help me. She gave me her personal contact details over live chat and spent the following 3 days being incredibly helpful. Su would follow up with me daily, and every interaction between us was full of smiles and words of kindness.

Su does a fantastic job for a fantastic company, so why should I make her feel bad about her day? Mistakes happen, and looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. Thanks, Su, wherever you are in the world ☺

My learnings

These are just a couple of examples of how simple changes in my approach to situations have been hugely successful for all parties involved.

I am excited to share more stories with you as I find new and better ways to deal with people. I am trying to leave no room for resentment and negativity despite being quite an emotional chap!

I am sure that Dale would be thrilled to witness the fruits of his labors even on such a small scale. This book has given me a new approach to life, and I think that we all strive to please those around us as much as we want to please ourselves. I reckon books like this help motivate us to put these wonderful thoughts into action.

Have you ever tried a deliberate and positive approach to interactions with others? How did it go? I’d be keen to hear your experiences and thoughts on How to Win Friends and Influence People in the comments.

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