How to Win Friends

This post was migrated from my Lifeblog.

There is a myth that homeschoolers are socially inept. I know this is a myth because my husband busts it wide open. His social skills far outstrip mine which, forged in the blazing fires of public school, are supposed to resemble steel. The reality is more like styrofoam. In our family, my husband manages all the PR.

One fine sunny day, I was lamenting my public awkwardness to my husband. Being a very proactive man, Spencer encouraged me to do something about it. He suggested I read Dale Carnegie’s classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, citing it as a big inspiration in his life.

“Well, I don’t want any friends. And I don’t want to influence anyone.” I was pretty grumpy that day.

“O-oh.” He looked bemused. “Then read it to find out what not to do. You wouldn’t want to get popular by accident now, would you.”

Now there was a good thought! I hijacked the volume from my parents’ bookshelf, and currently it is laying by my bed, half read.

This is actually my second go-around with this book. I forayed two or three chapters into it as a teenager but failed miserably to apply it to my life. This was because I approached it as a skin-deep remedy. That doesn’t work here. Unlike a lot of self-help concepts that pretend to be profound but are really quite shallow, this book strikes me as the opposite. Carnegie’s recommendations read like a simple dos and don’ts list, but they require a depth of sincerity that can’t be faked.

Now, a half decade older and (hopefully) wiser, I see this book more for the remarkable volume it is. In a lot of ways, it feels like the practical side to Jesus’s teachings. Where Jesus tells us what to be, Carnegie tells us how being these things would manifest itself in our social life in particular. I imagine Christ did these things effortlessly; He was an awfully popular fellow.

“Can’t you just go through the motions?” you might ask. Well, theoretically, I don’t see why not. But I can’t imagine anyone succeeding. After all, it is awfully hard to act unselfish for a prolonged time without being unselfish. I mean, I suppose that it is entirely possible that Mother Theresa was really a selfish brat, but simply went through the motions … all her life … Hmmm, you see my point?

So I hope to finish this book sometime. I will of course use it to cement my curmudgeonly solitude. Except for dear Spencer; I suppose I could wield a principle or two … but just on him. In the meantime, I highly recommend it. Not only is it a gem of advice, it also very well written, with that clarity and charm unique to old books. Hopefully, it will help you become the best-liked person in the room. And in the event you’re hoping to make enemies, if applied in reverse, it can help you do that too.