Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie (November 24, 1888 - November 1, 1955) was a pioneer in self-improvement, salesmanship, and corporate training programs, and became famous for courses he developed that emphasized public speaking and interpersonal skills. Born in poverty on a farm in Missouri, he was the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1936, which has sold over 15 million copies through many editions and remains popular today. He also wrote a biography of Abraham Lincoln titled Lincoln the Unknown and several other books.

Carnegie was an early proponent of what is now called responsibility assumption. One of the core ideas in his books is that it is possible to change other people's behavior by changing one's reaction to them.


Born in 1888 in Maryville, Missouri, Carnegie was a poor farmer's boy, apparently not seeing a train until he was twelve years old. In his teens, though still having to get up at 4 a.m. every day to milk his parents' cows, he managed to get educated at the State Teacher's College in Warrensburg. His first job after college was selling correspondence courses to ranchers, then he moved on to selling bacon, soap, and lard for Armour & Company. He was successful to the point of making his sales territory, southern Omaha, the national leader for the firm.

He authored several best sellers including "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living." Over 50 million copies of Mr. Carnegie's books have been printed; they are published in 38 languages.

Mr. Carnegie was a prominent lecturer of his day and a sought-after counselor to world leaders. He wrote newspaper columns and had his own daily radio show.

Dale Carnegie founded what is today a worldwide network of over 2,700 instructors and offices in more than 65 countries.

It is still rumoured that Dale Carnegie committed suicide, but the official word from Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc is that he died of Hodgkin's disease.

The Dale Carnegie Course

The Dale Carnegie Course is a self-improvement program conducted using a standardized curriculum by franchised trainers throughout the world. Several variations on the course exist, including a sales course and a course intended for people about to become managers for the first time.

The basic course consists of twelve evening sessions lasting three hours each. Courses are scheduled in the evening, one night per week. Typically there are 10-30 attendees in a course. Unpaid assistants, who are "graduates" of the course seeking to meet the experience requirement for becoming an instructor, are on hand to assist with logistics and work with small groups.

Instructors are college graduates who have experience working as managers in a business setting.

A good deal of the time each evening is spent in short presentations given by each of the participants to the rest of the attendees. Though the format varies slightly from week to week, usually about half of the available time is spent on presentations. Presentations are always based on personal experience rather than a topic that has been researched. This is a unique aspect of the Dale Carnegie Course that sets it apart from otherwise similar programs, and it is a core belief of the program that ease and experience with public speaking produces a wide range of secondary benefits.

The remainder of each session is spent in lecture and small group exercises. Lecture topics cover memory techniques, the importance of learning names, conversational techniques, and problem resolution and small group skills.

The Dale Carnegie Course enjoys a positive reputation among many business people and, particularly, is seen as a powerful transitional tool for shy people unaccustomed to working with others. Many employers pay for their employees to take the course.


Criticisms of the Course

A great deal of time is spent listening to speeches given by other participants, particularly in classes with larger numbers of participants. Some critics state that this time is not well spent.

Second, there is criticism that some techniques taught are manipulative. In The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand included a lengthy subplot where one character feigns an interest in the hobby of another in an effort to become a partner in an architectural firm. This is a direct attack on Carnegie's techniques. The course teaches that students should "take a genuine interest in other people" (emphasis added), though some present-day critics consider this a Band-Aid for a fundamentally manipulative activity.

It can also be argued that the first objective of the Dale Carnegie course is to train people to promote the course itself, rather than to achieve any genuine personal development. After each activity during the course the facilitator leads a discussion about the value of having done the activity. Also, participants are encouraged to invite friends, family and colleagues to the last session of the course, where they are subjected to presentations from all participants on the greatest "breakthrough" that they have achieved while taking the course.

Finally, critics of the philosophy of responsibility assumption attack that aspect of the program.

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