If "How to Win Friends..." was about interpersonal skills, this book is about intrapersonal skills. People have criticized Dale for stating the obvious, but hey, as my mother says, "common sense isn't common." Most of these ideas run counter to human nature's way of responding to conflict and criticism (defensiveness, blame, guilt, self-righteousness, etc). Instead, we are invited to replace these typical responses with non-threatening admissions of having been in the wrong if indeed we were in the wrong or water-off-a-duck's back/unshaken poise if the criticism was unjust, unwarranted, and unreasonable. To be honest, I often haven't thought about things the way Dale states them much less practiced his principles with consistency. Self-improvement in terms of handling my feelings is still a long-term goal of mine. I've made good progress, but I have a ways to go.
I think this book is very good, but I think "How to Win Friends & Influence People" is the better of the two books. Also, Dale can come off as preachy at times. I think he was a wonderful, considerate person with the best of intentions, so I hesitate reproaching this "guru" of emotional intelligence.
I did enjoy listening to stories about personal transformation. People who had hit rock bottom were able to rebound from their falls. John D. Rockefeller turned his life around, much in the style of "Silas Marner," and no longer fretted about losing money. Thanks to his Rockefeller Foundation, countless good causes have had ample funding. I also like the story Dale shares about J. C. Penney. Penney felt that even his intimate loved ones believed the worst about him after he was implicated with the stock market crash of 1929. He became so worried that his health deteriorated. Then one day he stumbled into a chapel as the choir was singing, "God will take care of you." He recognized the truth of those words and within 20 minutes, snapped out of his despair.
Dale really revered Abraham Lincoln, and so do I, based on Dale's account of him. Abraham Lincoln would select men who disliked him if he thought those men were the best qualified for a given position. Someone asked Lincoln why he would consort with men who freely criticize him. Lincoln responded, "You have more of a feeling of personal resentment than I have. Perhaps I have too little of it. But I never thought it paid." He also said, "A man doesn't have the time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to attack me, I never remember the past against him." Wow! Those are the words of an enlightened and secure human being.
I think that my problem has been that I took too personally the criticism of others (both just and unjust). I'm not a vindictive person; however, I hate feeling threatened, and my self-esteem--while it has improved, it is still vulnerable. It was the feeling of self-doubt that I hated--not really the person attacking me. I made the mistake of interchanging a person for his or her mistakes at my expense. If you no longer feel threatened by criticism and believe in yourself and your potential no matter what, then I think forgiveness is easy and natural. Dale warned that we pay too dearly for grudges with our lost peace of mind.
I like how this book among others can give us the tools to completely overhaul our unhelpful (or rather hurtful) ways of thinking about things. "How to Stop Worrying..." revisits platitudes and shows how they are less trite sayings than distilled truths. Turn lemons into lemonade. Count your blessings. Don't cry over spilled milk. He also talked about putting a "stop-loss order" on resentments, having our thoughts work for instead of against us, and how knowledge isn't power until it is applied. Forgive and forget our enemies. No person can humiliate or disturb us; a person really humiliates him/herself when s/he attempts to humiliate others. Or Eleanor Roosevelt's insight that no one can make us feel inferior without our permission. "If possible, no animosity should be felt for anyone." Edith Cabbal: "I realize now that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone." "Everynight I forgive everything & everybody." "Forget yourself by becoming interested in others." "Serving others is a sure way to forget our own troubles." "We hurt ourselves with thoughts of revenge." "Sympathy and compassion are the best antidotes to enmity."
The helpful quotes go on and on, and any of the above could become a person's mantra, depending on what issues s/he is working on. Ben Franklin had the great idea of working on one of his eight severest character flaws every week. He would alternate what vice he was trying to eliminate or at least, ameliorate. He would self-reflect upon his improvement or lack thereof. I've decided to imitate good old Ben and try this for myself.
I am grateful for Dale Carnegie and other helpful emotional intelligence gurus (Wayne Dyer, Deepak Choprah, and David Burns come to mind) for spelling out tools for emotional health and personal transformation. We all have great potential. As Dale said, we all live well within our means in terms of intellectual and emotional intelligence. Financially, it's great advice to live within our means, but we pay dearly to do so intellectually or emotionally.