Thirty-one years to the day after my Sandhurst military academy commissioning into the British Army, I was aboard a flight to Washington. I lifted a glass to my fellow 1981 graduates.
After the toast, I grabbed the U.S. Airways magazine and flicked through the pages. A review about a new book, "The Face-to-Face Book," caught my eye. It focuses on marketing and warns companies that the allure of Facebook is causing them to spend billions on social-media marketing even as studies suggest many consumers want face-to-face human interaction. This reminded me of my time at Sandhurst, where I first read "How to Win Friends and Influence People," by Dale Carnegie.
The downside of technology first hit me when I noticed the digital dependency of young office staff. These young folks are world-class. They routinely run faultless, significant overseas conferences and seminars. It was not the outcome that surprised me -- it was their method: They were content -- even preferred -- to communicate exclusively by email. Face-to-face, person-to-person interaction seems to be a lost skill for some, even dreaded by a few. "The Face-to-Face Book" suggests most people want human interaction. Have we lost the art of winning friends and influencing people?
At Sandhurst, I thought Carnegie's ideas and his vivid examples from Sigmund Freud, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin were brilliant, even as intellectuals disdain them. I wrote and taught a short leader-development course about it and saw U.S. and international students alike develop interaction skills. The essence of Carnegie's message has not changed, even 86 years after he wrote the book. Maybe it should be rediscovered. Facebook is wonderful, but not if it drives out all human interaction. Face-to-face communication is what life is about, but it takes practice. It is time to dust off and reread Carnegie's book.
COL. ROBERT A. SHARP
British Army (retired)
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