In 1936 Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People after intense study of effective leadership, the psychology behind why people like each other, and how to approach tough situations without giving offense.
Far from being sneaky ways to get what you want, or sleazy selling tactics, the ways Carnegie describes how to properly interact with others would make the world a better place if universally adopted. You could recognize one of these tactics being used on you, and still feel no ill will towards the person employing it.
This is an overview of the key takeaways from How to Win Friends and Influence People. Read the whole book to get the most benefit from Carnegie’s lessons, and bookmark this page for a quick reference.
Think of How to Win Friends and Influence People, as oil for the gears of society.
It just makes people defensive and breeds resentment. Criticizing and condemning makes it harder for someone to admit they are wrong because they feel the desire to justify their actions or thoughts. Even if they change their mind, it will not be a lasting change.
Everyone wants to feel needed and important. Those who fulfill this craving for others will be held in high esteem. But it is easy to tell shallow flattery from actual recognition of good qualities and hard work. Look for qualities worthy of commendation.
Dale Carnegie didn’t like to eat worms, but strangely enough, he fished with worms and did pretty well. How well would he have done if he fished with what he loved: strawberries and cream? Talk about the other person’s desires, and show them how to get there.
You don’t need to be nearly as interesting as you need to be interested. People can tell if you are faking it, so you really need to find pleasure in learning about others. Make it a sort of game to dig deep enough to find something exotic about even the banalest acquaintances.
You have control over your thoughts, so choose to be happy. Being positive goes a long way and is infectious. Having an authentic smile on your face is an easy way to increase the chances that someone is going to like you.
Remember names! And say their name often. It shows others they are important enough to you to be remembered. Better yet, name something after them! Maybe not your dog…
It is easy to think we need to say the right things to get someone to like us, but it is more about allowing them to have their say. We all have interests that we are passionate about and want to talk about. When we find a sincerely interested audience, it makes us feel appreciated and important.
If you are interested in others, they will be interested in you. Just find something about a person that you know interests them, and set out to learn about it. Ask them to explain the interest, and they will enjoy your company while telling you.
Everybody wants to be appreciated. Don’t you remember countless times when you achieved something or put a lot of energy into a project only to be met with silence? It’s like no one even noticed! Dinner was great, the yard looks nice, great job on that assignment! If there is something important to someone, recognize their work and it will make them feel important.
Even when you “win” an argument, the other person generally reverts back to their old opinion as soon as you part ways. From the get-go, an argument actually makes us dig in because we feel like we have something on the line and can’t admit we were wrong. When you disagree with someone, take the opportunity to sincerely reflect on why, and welcome hearing about the new perspective. You never know, maybe cats are better than dogs after all.
If you are right more than 50% of the time, then why don’t you work on Wall Street? Ask questions if you truly think you are right, and the person will usually come over through their own thought processes. Allow yourself to understand the other person, even (or especially) if they are wrong.
It is liberating to admit when you are wrong. It removes such a burden of having to always figure out how to stay right. We are going to be wrong sometimes, just a fact. Being wrong doesn’t have to be embarrassing, and admitting it quickly is the easiest way to save face, and in fact get more respect and agreement from those involved.
Why make life hard for yourself? “The sun can make you take off your coat more quickly than the wind; and kindliness, the friendly approach, and appreciation can make people change their minds more readily than all the bluster and storming in the world.”
Always start with, and continue to emphasize, what you agree on. Start small with something you know they will say yes to, and lead them gently down a path of agreement until they embrace “a conclusion they would have bitterly denied a few minutes previously.”
The best illustration of this principle is in dealing with children. Instead of constantly yelling, ordering, and demanding of a disobedient child, what works better is to hear them out. Sometimes all people need to be agreeable is to be heard, and if you sincerely listen to them, frustration and negativity usually evaporate.
Who cares about getting credit? If you want someone to agree with you, it is better to let them think any plans you had were their ideas. We are much more likely to support and be excited about our own concoctions.
“Stop a minute,” says Kenneth M. Good in his book How to Turn People into Gold, “stop a minute to contrast your keen interest in your own affairs with your mild concern about anything else. Realize then, that everybody else in the world feels exactly the same way! … success in dealing with people depends on a sympathetic grasp of the other person’s viewpoint.”
The magic phrase is: I would feel the same if I were in your position. Be sympathetic! Just telling someone you understand their frustration does wonders to calm them, even if you cannot do another single thing to help.
This is why people get their way when they can convince others what they want is “for the children.” J.P. Morgan said there are two reasons a person does something, “one that sounds good, and a real one.” Appeal to the one that sounds good, because we are all “idealists at heart.” Basically, emotion works better than logic.
“Merely stating a truth isn’t enough. The truth has to be made vivid, interesting, dramatic.” Think of interesting and fun ways to present your ideas that catch people off guard, and draw them in.
Or maybe you’re too scared to throw down a challenge. No? Why don’t you prove it then? It’s a great tactic to challenge someone to persevere, but it takes a special man or woman to do it right. Think you can handle it?
“A barber lathers a man before he shaves him.” Sometimes it is necessary to be a critic or give someone a difficult answer. The cushion for this pain–the dentist’s Novocaine for an unpleasant but necessary drilling–should be honest praise and appreciation.
Change the word “but” to “and”. Begin with sincere praise, and don’t bring doubt to the initial sincerity by using the word but. Still, begin with honest appreciation, and relate the praise to what you are trying to change. Would I feel better about hearing, “I love your book, but it would make a better movie,” or “I love your book, and the action would play out especially well on screen.” It’s the same message.
I have a treasure trove of mistakes to pull from, so this one comes easy for me! Criticizing yourself puts you in the same boat as the person you need to critique, so they aren’t so defensive. The best advice available is from others who have made similar blunders.
If you are in a position of power and give a direct order, you can expect it will be done. You can also expect to stoke an “us versus them” mentality between the order givers and the order takers. If you make a question or suggestion of the order, however, this makes the receiver a participant, and might even stoke enough creativity to get the thing accomplished in a better way. Certainly, it will quell any resentment on the part of subordinates.
If a bird gets in your house, is it more effective to corner it and trap it, or to leave a window open for it to fly out? The number one rule of diplomacy is to always give the other person an out without damaging their ego. If your kid loves to help you garden, but crushes the flowers, promote him to head leaf raker.
Praise to humans is like sunlight to plants, it is the warm sunshine we need to grow. Nowhere is this more obvious than with children. They want to please their parents, and if they can’t do that they will settle for whatever attention they can get. Clearly, the best idea is to praise the good behaviors so that their outlet for attention will be positive. It’s the same with dogs and adults, though you might have to be less obvious about it. “Who’s a good employee? Yes, you are! Want a belly rub?” Maybe not.
I know everyone reading this was naturally doing most of these things anyway, and this article will only strengthen the reserve to continue on the path of making friends and influencing people just by being empathetic, intelligent, and thoughtful in your interactions, which comes so easy to you anyway.
Telling someone they are terrible at something is a sure way to discourage them, make them internalize that feeling, and perhaps they even give up. Instead, tell someone they just need the practice to get better. Pick out the good from the bad to encourage perseverance, and better outcomes and any mistakes will naturally smooth out.
When you know someone isn’t going to like what you have to tell them, best to frame it in a way they will like or follow immediately with a great alternative. If you have to let them down, bring attention to a positive route forward. “Make sure you check out that beautiful full moon while taking out the garbage!”
These are the basics, but the real fun in reading How to Win Friends and Influence People is the historical examples that Carnegie gives. It’s a classic that is still just as interesting and relevant as when it came out. It provides countless solutions on how to properly get your point across without alienating others.