From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: large group awareness training
20 Nov 2000
You can add Dale Carnegie classes to this distinguished list. I was "given the opportunity" to attend a Dale Carnegie program at the expense of the company I was working for because it was highly recommended by the secretary who had previously taken it.
Being the logical minded engineer that I am I just couldn't understand and get comfortable with the strange goings on in this class and gave up after attending 6 of the 12 scheduled three-hour long classes. I think if I had read your article first I might have smelled this one out before attending.
It was quite similar to the others you describe, complete with perpetually smiling, always (artificially) cheerful group leaders. They actually did lead us in some short positive cheer at the end of each session that we were supposed to shout happily, several times, as if we really meant it.
The activities always consisted of spilling your guts, with some of your most intimate thoughts as directed in the assignment, in front of the nearly 100 other people in the room. All dutifully responded with rousing applause to make you feel good about what you had just done though I mostly just felt embarrassed. I think this portion of the program was designed to break you emotionally so you will more readily accept the 'positive ideas' the instructors want to pour into your head.
They also frequently advertised to their captive audience that there are more classes and plenty of books by the founder available for sale and suggested you buy more of each to get the fullest benefit from the course. It was only slightly less than high pressure.
There is one additional twist on the Dale Carnegie course that seems to make it different from the others. Part of the exercises and emphasis in the training is to pretend you are very interested in other people so you can impress and manipulate them. Clearly it is not advertised this way but they call it a great sales tool. This class is geared toward sales people.
You are taught that people love to talk about themselves and you should help them do that. If you can learn to remember things about them, especially the small details, you can use that to your advantage and hook them into buying more of what you have to offer. If you can sell them things that they don't need in order to enrich yourself then you are a great sales person! That was essentially the gist of the book by the founder too. I found it absolutely disgusting.
The basic mantra of the course was "You can't live a happy and fulfilling life unless you have the Dale Carnegie secrets and use them daily in your personal life and your career." What finally got to me was when they used that statement to insult my wife and our personal relationship. We have a far better marriage than most from what I've heard so, after feeling insulted by that sentiment one too many times, I walked away.
Only an empty mind could be convinced that these total strangers can completely change and improve their close, personal relationships by talking to them one hundred at a time. Making phonies is their game. I just couldn't be someone I'm not.
reply: I read on their web site that they have eleven programs. You probably took the wrong one, Karl. Anyway, you'll probably hear from their lawyer telling you not to use 'Dale Carnegie' as a noun and to remember to put the ® in Dale Carnegie Training® and the ™ in Carnegie Coach™, right next to the $$$.