Reflections on Carnegie and Cialdini

Dale Carnegie and Robert Cialdini are giants in the management world. Carnegie’s seminal book How to Win Friends and Influence People was first published in 1936, and is a rare gem that has continued to be relevant and useful more than 75 years later. Cialdini’s less well known outside of the business world, but has been lauded and hailed since his 1984 publication of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Both of these management icons present useful arguments on how to motivate people to do what you need them to do. But they go about it pretty differently. Carnegie penned his classic before a ton of scholarly research was done on the matter, and his points are more personal than Cialdini’s. I won’t go over each and every point from both books, but I want to point out some of my favorite concepts.

Carnegie says that when you’re handling people, you shouldn’t criticize, condemn or complain, but you should give honest and sincere appreciation. Isn’t that lovely? Don’t you wish those were just The Rules for Life? That pretty much sets the tone for every other suggestion Carnegie makes. It boils down to being genuine and kind and generous with praise. Be polite and respectful. That’s pretty much it. Carnegie’s book is a great for leading a Fortune 500 business or for raising children.

Cialdini has a much more academic approach to influence. He lists the key principles as reciprocity, commitment & consistency, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity. I don’t love the approach that Cialdini takes, though. The framing of his content feels like more manipulation than persuasion. It’s a thin line. Jonathan Winters, the author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance, blogged about it recently, saying:

The difference between persuasion and manipulation lies in:

1) The intent behind your desire to persuade that person,

2) The truthfulness and transparency of the process, and 

3) The net benefit or impact on that person

Do you think a good manager persuades or influences? Or is there room for both?