Book Summary: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends & Influence People

If we can summarize in a sentence to “How to win friends and influence people”: To make friends, influence others and get them in our corner, it is essential to know how to look after their self-esteem; this occurs after a critical change in our everyday behavior, which consists of never criticizing, being genuinely involved in others, smiling, remembering the first name of the person we are speaking with, making them feel great, never telling them they are wrong, talking about our own mistakes before talking about theirs, motivating, sincerely praising, and generally always looking after their self-esteem.

How to Win Friends and Influence People is a self-assistance book written by Dale Carnegie, published in 1936. Over 30 million copies have been sold all around the world, which makes it one of the best-selling books of all ages. In 2011, it was number ranked 19th on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential books.

Dale Carnegie has packed all his life experience in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. We have summarized the entire book into 30 principles for our readers’ convenience and further categorized these 30 principles into four parts.

Part One: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

Principle 1: Do not criticize, do not condemn, and do not complain

We are not able to make genuine changes by criticizing people, and we rather often come across with outrage. It is important to recognize that when dealing with people, we are dealing not with creatures of logic but with creatures of emotion, who are encouraged by pride and self-esteem.

Dale Carnegie defines it as: “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes them strive to justify themselves.

World-renowned psychologist B.F. Skinner explained that an animal rewarded for good behavior would learn much quicker and retain what it learns far more efficiently than an animal punished for bad practice.

Since then, further studies have revealed that this same principle refers to humans as well: Criticizing others does not bring anything positive.

Principle 2: Compliment sincerely and honestly

We tend to take the people in our lives for granted so often that we ignore to let them know that we understand them. We must be careful to keep in mind the difference between appreciation and flattery, which rarely works with intelligent people, as it is shallow, self-centered, and insincere.  

Flattery comes from the tongue; appreciation comes from the heart.

With words of real appreciation, we have the ability to completely change another person’s viewpoint of themselves, improve their motivation, and be a driving strength behind their success.

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” – William James

Principle 3: give people what they want, not what you want

“Of course, you are interested in what you want. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want.” – Dale Carnegie

Maybe your favorite dessert is Chocolate fudge cake. Excellent choice! Now, if you were to go fishing, would you bait your hook with fudge cake? Of course not, that is what you choose, but fish prefer worms.  

During World War I, Lloyd George, Great Britain’s prime minister, who stayed in power long after the other wartime leaders had been forgotten, was asked how he maintained to remain on top. His response: He had discovered that it is necessary to “bait the hook to suit the fish.”  

Most salespeople waste a lifetime selling without understanding things from the customer’s perspective, wondering why they are not successful as they completely overlook the customer’s requirements.  

If we can put aside our own thoughts, ideas, and preferences and genuinely see things from another person’s angle, we will be able to convince them that it is in their best interest to do whatever it is we are after.

“The world is full of people who are grabbing and self-seeking. So the rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage. He has little competition.” Dale Carnegie

Part Two: Six Ways to Make People Like You

Principle 1: Bypass an argument

According to Carnegie, it’s useless to win an argument. If we lose the argument, we lose; if we win the argument, we have made the other person feel lower, damage his pride, and made him dislike us. In other words, we still lose.

Nine times out of 10 times, arguing just results in the other person even more firmly assured that he is right.  

“There is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument – and that is to avoid it.” Dale Carnegie 

What if, instead of arguing with someone, we realize their importance through appreciation? This can develop the other person’s personality so he can then become compassionate and kind.

To keep a conflict from becoming an argument, we can:

  • Embrace the disagreement. If the other person is raising a point we have not thought, we can be thankful it’s brought to our consideration. It may save us from making a mistake.
  • Doubt our first instinctive impression. Our natural reaction to a disagreeable situation is to become defensive. We should keep peaceful and watch out for how we first respond.
  • Control our anger. Only negative outcomes result from a bad temper.
  • Listen first. We can give our opponents an opportunity to talk without interrupting and let them complete without holding, defending, or arguing.
  • Look for areas of agreement. Surface those first.
  • Be honest. Look for areas where we can admit errors and excuse for our mistakes. This helps decrease defensiveness.
  • Promise to think over our opponents’ beliefs and study them carefully. And mean it. Thank our opponents sincerely for their interest. If they’re taking the time to argue with us, they’re interested in the same things we are.
  • Postpone action to give both sides time to think through the problem. In the meantime, ask ourselves honestly if our opponents might be right or partly right.

Principle 2: Show respect to others opinion

“If you are going to prove anything, don’t let anybody know it. Do it so subtly, so adroitly, that no one will feel you are doing it.” – Dale Carnegie 

Carnegie narrates a story of a computer department manager who desperately tried to recruit a Ph.D. for his department. He finally found the perfect candidate, but the boy also had proposals from much more extensive and better-known companies. When the boy told the manager that he was choosing his company, the manager asked why.  

The boy explained: “I think it was because managers in the other companies spoke on the phone in a cold business-like manner, which made me feel like just another business transaction. Your voice sounded as if you were glad to hear from me … that you really wanted me to be part of your organization.”  

A simple smile can go a long way.

Principle 3: Remember a person’s name to show they are important

“The average person is more interested in his or her own name than in all the other names on earth put together.”

Calling someone by their name is like giving them a very subtle compliment. Conversely, forgetting or misspelling someone’s name can have an adverse effect and make it feel as though we are distant and disinterested in them.  

Remembering and using people’s names is also a critical component of good leadership. The executive who can’t remember his employees’ names can’t memorize a significant part of his business and is operating on quicksand.  

“The information we are imparting or the request we are making takes on special importance when we approach the situation with the name of the individual. From the waitress to the senior executive, the name will work magic as we deal with others.” – Dale Carnegie 

In general, if we forget names, it is because we simply do not take the time to write them down, repeat them, and engrave them permanently in our minds. This takes work and needs a certain amount of time, but the prize is definitely worth the effort.

Principle 4: Learn to listen. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

Carnegie says that he once visited a dinner party where he met a botanist whom he found to be fascinating. He listened for hours with enthusiasm as the botanist spoke of exotic plants and indoor gardens, until the party ended and everyone left.  

Before leaving, the botanist told the host of the dinner party that Carnegie was a “most interesting conversationalist” and gave him several compliments.  

“And so I had him thinking of me as a good conversationalist when, in reality, I had been merely a good listener and had encouraged him to talk,” Carnegie notes.

Next time you have a dialogue, pay attention to how much of the conversation is you talking vs. the other person talking. How much listening are you doing?

Aim to do 75% listening and 25% talking.

“If you want to know how to make people shun you and laugh at you behind your back and even despise you, here is the recipe: Never listen to anyone for long. Talk incessantly about yourself. If you have an idea while the other person is talking, don’t wait for him or her to finish: bust right in and interrupt in the middle of a sentence.” – Dale Carnegie 

Principle 5: Talk to people about what they are interested in.

Whenever Theodore Roosevelt expected a guest, he would stay up late the night before, reading up on whatever topic he knew particularly interested his guest. And that is because Roosevelt was keenly knowledgeable of the following idea:

 “The royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Carnegie illustrates a story from a man named Edward Chalif, who was thinking to ask the president of one of the largest corporations in America to pay for his son to go on a Boy Scout trip.  

Before Mr. Chalif went to see him, he had learned that this man had drawn up a check for a million dollars and that after it was canceled, he had had it framed. Upon meeting the man, he mentioned how much he admired the check and would love to see it.  

The man was inspired! He talked about the check for some time, until he realized he hadn’t asked why Mr. Chalif was there to see him. When Mr. Chalif mentioned his request, the man agreed without any questions and even offered to fund the trip for several other boys as well.  

Mr. Chalif later told, “If I hadn’t found out what he was interested in, and got him warmed up first, I wouldn’t have found him one-tenth as easy to approach.”  

Talking in terms of the other person’s interests benefits both parties

Principle 6: Make others feel important and do it sincerely.

There is a primordial law that we must value in our relationships with others. If we perceive it, we will win friendship and happiness. If we disrupt it, we will give rise to numerous difficulties in our wake. Here it is: Make others feel important.

You regard those around you, you wish them to do equity to your merits, and you like very much feeling important in your own circle. You hate unnecessary flattery but adore sincere praise, you want to be appreciated, encouraged, complimented. We all want to that.

When Carnegie explains having this type of interaction with a stranger, he remarks that many people have asked him what he was trying to get out of the person. His response:

“If we are so contemptibly selfish that we can’t radiate a little happiness and pass on a bit of honest appreciation without trying to get something out of the other person in return – if our souls are no bigger than sour crab apples, we shall meet with the failure we so richly deserve.” – Dale Carnegie 

Part Three: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking:

Principle 1: Avoid controversy unless you can come out on top.

In his youth, Dale Carnegie adored controversy.

He studied logic and argument in college, never missed the chance to participate in contradictory debates, and even directed a dialectic course as a result, and did the project about writing on a subject… Then, after having attended and participated in thousands of discussions, he examined them and drew one conclusion: the best way to carry on a controversy is to avoid it.

But what should you do then if there is disagreement? The concept is to welcome the dispute. The dispute is an opportunity to enrich yourself and discover a new perspective that had not happened to you before. Here is advice in such a situation:

  • Overcome your anger.
  • Don’t give in to your first impulse.
  • Be honest.
  • Begin by listening.
  • Find common ground.
  • Sincerely thank your adversaries for their interest.
  • Adjourn your actions to allow both parties to present the time to examine the problem in detail.
  • Promise to think about the ideas of your adversaries and study them carefully.

Principle 2: If you are wrong, admit it promptly and energetically

Carnegie narrates a story of taking his dog to the park without a muzzle or a leash and running into a police officer who criticized him, as this was against the law. The next few times Carnegie took his dog out, he kept him on a leash, but the dog didn’t like it. So the next time, Carnegie let the dog run free. When he ran into that same police officer, he knew he would be in trouble.

Instead of waiting for the police officer to start scolding him, he spoke up, saying that the officer had caught him red-handed, he was guilty and had no excuses, that the officer had already warned him. The policeman replied in a soft tone, told Carnegie he was overreacting and that he should take his dog to the other side of the hill where he wouldn’t see him.

Through Carnegie’s smart and enthusiastic admission of fault, he gave the police officer a feeling of value. After that, the only way the policeman could nourish his self-esteem was to take a forgiving attitude and show mercy. 

“Any fool can try to defend his or her mistakes – and most fools do – but it raises one above the herd and gives one a feeling of nobility and exultation to admit one’s mistakes.” – Dale Carnegie

Principle 3: Start on a friendly note.

Aesop, a Greek slave from the seventh century BC, has demonstrated the point of this chapter once before:

One day, the wind and the sun were debating over who was the strongest. The wind said:

I am going to prove that I am. You see that old man down there? I bet that I can make him take his coat off faster than you can.

Upon which the sun disappeared behind a cloud and the wind began to blow like a hurricane. But the harder it blew, the more the man cinched his coat around him. Finally, the wind became tired and quit blowing. Then, the sun came out from behind a cloud and smiled gently at the traveler. Soon he began to feel warm; he wiped his forehead and took off his coat.

The sun then remarked to the wind that sweetness and kindness are always stronger than violence and fury.

“A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” – Abraham Lincoln

Principle 4: Ask questions that will lead to saying yes immediately

When talking with people, we should never begin with the points on which we differ. We should start by highlighting the things on which we agree and be sure to convey that we are both trying for the same result – our differences are in method, but not the purpose.

Socrates has become very famous for the “Socratic method,” by which one asks another person a question with which they have to agree.

“[Socrates] kept on asking questions until finally, almost without realizing it, his opponents found themselves embracing a conclusion they would have bitterly denied a few minutes previously.” – Dale Carnegie

Principle 5: Make the person you are talking to feel completely comfortable speaking

We are often tempted to interrupt someone when we disagree with them. But we should not interrupt – it’s very dangerous. They will not pay attention to our thoughts while they still have a number of their own to express. 

This principle benefits in both business and family situations. Carnegie describes a story of a woman who could not get her daughter to do her chores. Instead of yelling at her for the hundredth time, the mother one day simply asked her daughter sadly, “Why?”  

Her daughter let loose the thoughts and feelings she had been bottling up – her mother never listened to her and always interrupted her with more orders. The mother realized all she had been doing was talking, not listening. From then on, she let her daughter do all the talking she wanted and their relationship improved significantly.

“If you want enemies, excel your friends; but if you want friends, let your friends excel you.” – LA Rochefoucauld

Principles 6: Allow the person you are talking to the pleasure of thinking it was his idea

Take the example of a man named Mr. Wesson, who sold sketches for a design studio. He lost hundreds of times in getting one of the leading New York stylists to buy his sketches. One day, he tried a new strategy. He took various incomplete sketches to the stylist and asked how he could finish the designs in such a way that the stylist would find them helpful. The stylist offered his ideas, Mr. Wesson had the sketches completed according to the buyer’s ideas, and they were all accepted.

If we are truly only after the consequences, why care about the credit? Why not let someone else take the spotlight so long as we can achieve what we’re out to get?

Principle 7: Make a real effort to see things from the other person’s point of view.

One of the primary keys to successful human relations is understanding that other people may be wrong, but they don’t think they are.  

Don’t condemn them; try to understand them.

“There is a reason why the other man thinks and acts as he does. Ferret out that reason – and you have the key to his actions, perhaps to his personality.” – Dale Carnegie

Take the other person’s viewpoint. Learn what you say by what you’d want to hear if you were the listener. These skills will take time to develop but will help you avoid conflict and get better results.

Principle 8: Welcome kindly the ideas and desires of others.

If someone responds negatively toward us, once we begin apologizing and sympathizing with their point of view, they will start apologizing and empathizing with our perspective.

Everyone wants to feel appreciated and have their problems and opinions recognized. Use this to turn hostility into friendliness.

“Three-fourths of the people you will ever meet are hungering and thirsting for sympathy. Give it to them, and they will love you.” – Dale Carnegie

Principle 9: Appeal to higher feelings

People usually have two purposes for doing things — one that sounds good and the real one. A person will realize on his own the real reason he does something. We do not want to point it out. But all of us, being idealists at heart, like to think of motives that sound good.

So, to inspire others, it is better to appeal to their most noble intentions. For fear of destroying the idealist image they have of themselves, they will be more motivated to respond to your pleas.

Principle 10: Show off your ideas spectacularly. Appeal to both sight and imagination

To effectively persuade someone of our ideas or our argument, it’s not enough to merely state a truth. If we truly want someone’s attention, we must present that truth in a vivid, engaging, dramatic way.

We get down on one knee when we propose as an act of dramatization – we are showing that words alone are not enough to show that feeling.

We make games out of chores so our kids will play along and find it fun to pick up their toys when they get to make a pretend train around the playroom.

Carnegie reveals a story of a salesman who walked into a grocery store, told the owner that he was literally throwing away money on every sale he was making, and threw a handful of coins on the floor. The sound of the coins dropping got the owner’s attention and made his losses more tangible, and the salesman was able to get an order from him.

Principle 11: Present a challenge

Most people have an inborn desire to achieve. Along with that desire often comes a deep sense of competition – everyone wants to outdo others and be the best.  

When nothing else works in winning people to your way of thinking, throw down a challenge.

“The way to get things done is to stimulate competition. I do not mean in a sordid, money-getting way, but in the desire to excel.” – Charles Schwab

Frederic Herzberg, one of the great behavioral scientists, studied thousands of people’s work attitudes, varying from factory workers to senior executives. He found that the one major factor that motivated people was the work itself. If the work was exciting or interesting, the worker looked forward to doing it.

This is what every strong person loves: the game. We seek a chance for self-expression, a chance to prove our worth, to excel, to win.

Part 4: Be a Leader: How To Change People

Principle 1: Start out with sincere praise

It requires an obvious process, but it gets outcomes; it less painful for us to receive unpleasant comments after a compliment about our ability.

“Beginning with praise is like the dentist who begins his work with Novocain. The patient still gets a drilling, but the Novocain kills the pain.” – Dale Carnegie

The solution is an age-old technique called a ‘criticism sandwich.’ When you are going to offer negative feedback, start with a compliment. Then segue into the meat and potatoes: the criticism. Finally, and more importantly, part ways with another positive compliment.

As Jonah Berger, Wharton professor and New York Times best-selling author, puts it, “It’s amazing what a little positive at the beginning and end can do.

Principle 2: How to criticize and not be hated for it

Most of us react bitterly to direct criticism. When we are looking to change people without offending them or arousing resentment, merely changing one three-letter word can be our key to success.

Many people begin their criticism with sincere praise followed by the word “but” and their critical statement. Start swapping “but” for “and” when you deliver critical feedback to help you frame it in a positive and uplifting way, instead of inferring failure and disapproval.

Principle 3: Talk about your own mistakes first

Carnegie gives an illustration of hiring his niece, Josephine, to be his secretary. Josephine made many mistakes on the job, and though Carnegie was tempted to criticize her for her imperfections, he took a step back and realized that he is twice as old as Josephine and has ten thousand times her business experience. How could he possibly expect her to have his same viewpoint and judgment? He realized that Josephine was performing better than he had been at her age.  

When he approached Josephine, he told her that she had made a mistake, but goodness knows it was no worse than many that he himself had made. He noted that she was not born with judgment, that it comes only with experience, and that he had done many stupid things himself. “But don’t you think it would have been wiser if you had done so and so?” he concluded.

“Admitting one’s own mistakes – even when one hasn’t corrected them – can help convince somebody to change his behavior.” – Dale Carnegie

Principle 4: Ask questions rather than giving direct orders

An order which is too blunt can cause someone a long-lasting offense, even if the order is justified. Instead, ask questions such as “Could you take a look at this?” or “Do you think this would be okay?” or “Would you do this?” Asking questions doesn’t just make orders more palatable, it also excites the other person’s creativity. People take orders more readily if they have been part of the initial decision.

Asking questions also stimulates creativity, leading to new ideas and better solutions. 

“People are more likely to accept an order if they have had a part in the decision that caused the order to be issued.” – Dale Carnegie

Principle 5: Let the other person save face

When we differ with someone, even if we are right and he is definitely wrong, we only destroy his ego by causing him to lose face. 

I have no right to say or do anything that diminishes a man in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him, but what he thinks of himself. Hurting a man in his dignity is a crime.” – ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY

Avoid passing negative feedback in front of others or setting up a situation that will be embarrassing for the person.

Principle 6: Praise the least progress and praise any progress. Do it warmly and generously

One of the most potent abilities we have is helping others realize their potential. We can do this by appreciating their strengths. Yet, this is something we do so infrequently. It is much easier to point out someone’s weaknesses. Even when it is tough to find things to praise, try hard to find something.

We should also praise often. By noting even small steps and minor improvements, we encourage the other person to keep improving.

Praise is like sunlight to the warm human spirit – we cannot flower and grow without it. And yet, while most of us are only too ready to apply to others the cold wind of criticism, we are somehow reluctant to give our fellow the warm praise of sunshine.” – Jess Lair

Principle 7: Give an excellent reputation to the deserving

It is similar to appealing to people’s better motives, giving the other person a lofty reputation to live up to incite a desire to meet those expectations. 

“If you want to improve a person in a certain aspect, act as though that particular trait were already one of his or her outstanding characteristics.” – Dale Carnegie 

Carnegie gives an example of a mechanic named Bill whose work had become unsatisfactory. Instead of berating or threatening Bill, his manager simply called Bill into his office and told him:

You are a fine mechanic, you have been in the business for many years, and we’ve had a number of compliments on the good work you have done. But lately, your work has not been up to your own old standards, and I thought you’d want to know since you’ve been such an outstanding mechanic in the past.

The outcome? Bill once again became a quick and thorough mechanic. With the reputation his manager had given him to live up to, how could he not?

Principle 8: Encourage. Make errors seem easy to fix.

Tell your coworker, your child, or your coworker that they are stupid, that they are not cut out for such work, or such a game, that they are doing poorly, that they do not understand anything, etc, and you will destroy any desire they have to excel. But try it the opposite way: Give fair encouragement; make it, so the task to be achieved appears simple, let them know you are behind them, that you have confidence in their abilities, tell them they have untapped talent… and they will use it all day long if necessary.

“Be liberal with your encouragement, make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it, that he has an undeveloped flair for it – and he will practice until the dawn comes in the window in order to excel.” – Dale Carnegie

Principle 9: Make others happy to do what you suggest

If you have an employee who strives with a specific task, appoint her to be the supervisor for that task and watch as she improves immediately.  

Offering incentives, praise, and authority are great ways to make a person happily take our decisions and do what we want them to do.

Undoubtedly, Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the best books for developing good habits and a positive attitude towards others in order to change their perspective about our negative behavior. With practice, it will grow even more natural to apply these principles every day, and soon we will be masters of the art of human relations. If you want to get a copy of a book, here is the Amazon link of how to win friends and influence people. You will not regret reading this.

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