I just polished off How to Make Friends and Influence People, a title I downloaded more than 3 months ago, on the day we launched the download service. Obviously I was interested in listening to it, at least in an academic way (figuring a book that’s been around for 70 years must have traction).
The skinny on this self-help classic: Are all self help audio books so self-evident? Andrew MacMillan keeps his narration well-paced, if a little old-fashioned, which suits the down home advice of the text. At 8 1/2 hours (Unabridged), the title runs a bit long–the second half feels padded with sales pitches for their personal development programs (which cost considerably more than the audio book). Overall production values are high, and it’s a useful reminder of the basics of good behaviour–but be ready to skip ahead when tracks get a little self-indulgent.
Suggestions like avoiding criticism and giving a person a reputation to live up to are useful reminders of basic principles (the one about avoiding criticism at all costs really resonated for me– which I’m not too proud of), but really these are things we should have learned in grade school. Isn’t this largely the curriculum for your average kindergarten class? Learning to cooperate, garner consensus and build goodwill are all basic building blocks of dealing with other people.
By about halfway through the book, the pointed reminders of what works to “win friends and influence people” start to wear a little thin. The real-life examples from famous figures like Abraham Lincoln and Charles Schwab (yes, there was a Charles Schwab, once) are replaced more often with “Joseph H., who took our course in San Diego, California” or “Suzanne Y., who teaches our program in Boston, Massachusetts” — significantly less compelling figures, though I’m sure they were super-jazzed when he successfully renegotiated his lease and she convinced her husband to go to the Grand Canyon for their annual holiday.
Seriously, is this what self-help is all about? Is it remedial lessons on how to play nice? And if so, why aren’t people getting more civil as self-help audio books rocket to the top of best-seller lists?