How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1936).

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Dale Carnegie’s book is a time-tested classic. It has sold millions of copies all over the world and is a staple on every business leaders’ reading list. Its approach to everyday relationships is pragmatic and actionable. Anyone looking for simple ways to enhance their social skills should own a copy.

How to Win Friends and Influence People Synopsis

How to Win Friends and Influence People is exactly as the title implies. The book answers three key questions:

  1. How can you make people like you instantly?
  2. How can you persuade people to agree with you?
  3. How can you speak honestly and frankly to individuals – without being offensive?

To answer these three questions, the author takes readers through four sections for influencing others and provides examples. These sections are:

  1. Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
  2. Six Ways to Make People Like You
  3. How to Win People To Your Way of Thinking
  4. Nine Ways to Change People Without Giving Offence or Arousing Resentment

This article will highlight the key ideas from each section of the book.

Key topic #1: How to handle people

In this first section, Carnegie lays out mantras that you should keep in mind when dealing with other people. One mantra is practicing understanding. Instead of criticizing, condemning, or complaining, you should try and understand the perspective of the other person. Doing so breeds sympathy and kindness, which translates into willingness. Thus, it is far more profitable and productive than criticizing others.

Another mantra is to praise with honest and sincere appreciation a person’s positives, whether they be attributes or actions. These compliments can stick with an individual for a lifetime, which means they will remember you in a certain light for a very long time.

Talk to individuals about their wants and desires. And, more importantly, show them how they can achieve it. This is incredibly useful for people to do what you want them to do. By arousing it as something they want to do, they will be less resistant to doing it.

Key topic #2: How to make people like you

The second section of the book focuses on mantras and tools to improve your likability. One mantra is to be genuinely interested in other people and to show this. In order to do this, one should greet people they meet with enthusiasm. Being excited makes the other person feel special. This also helps cultivate strong and real friendships.

Another suggested tool is to simply smile. It is speculated that those who smile tend to find success in places like sales. It also a free way to brighten up another person’s day, so why not?

A great tool that Carnegie offers in this section is simply to remember a person’s name. It takes effort and energy to remember someone’s name, which is why so few people are good at it. If you make the effort to remember someone’s name after meeting them, they will recognize and appreciate this. As a result, the person will project positive feelings towards you and your character.

In general, people love great conversations. Being a great conversationalist starts with being an attentive listener. Take the time to actively listen. Ask questions to encourage others to talk about themselves. People care more about the toothache they have in their mouth than homelessness in another country. Therefore, encourage them to share their personal views and interests.

And finally, while listening to the individual, get an understanding of what they are interested in and steer the conversation towards their interests. People connect with those who can relate and or are curious about their passions. If you want to keep someone engaged, get them to talk about the things they love.

Key topic #3: How to win people to your way of thinking

Carnegie covers the principles of persuasion in this section of the book. One principle is to always avoid arguments. Even if you are right and you win based on facts, you still lose. Winning can breed resentment within the other person. Additionally, they may continue to think they are right. Instead, practice diplomacy rather than finding ways to tell the person that they’re wrong. In the case where you are wrong, be quick to admit and own it. This requires humility, which is often well-received by others.

Also, always start the conversation in a friendly way. No one is persuaded when the conversation starts with a demand. This is reminiscent of childhood memories of parents scolding their kids to clean their rooms. Begin with a friendly approach by shaping requests as favours. Additionally, find ways to get the person saying yes. This can come in the form of reminding them that you are both looking for the same things. Doing so will put the individual in a positive focus, increasing their likelihood to agree with you.

Another tool of persuasion is letting the other person do most of the talking while listening. By being sincerely attentive as the other person speaks, we learn about what is important to them. Be sympathetic to their ideas and desires. And when the opportunity arises, gently sell them on your ideas and make them feel as if it is their own.

In addition to working with a single individual, be sure to appeal to nobler motives. Societies collectively hold certain things sacred. Appealing to nobler motives will garner broader appeal and acceptance. For example, doing something for the greater good will almost always be accepted and supported. And finally, be dramatic in how you sell your ideas.

Key topic #4: How to change people without breeding resentment

Persuading people to your thinking is one thing, but getting them to change is another. In the book’s fourth section, Carnegie provides tools on how to gently nudge people’s behaviours in the right direction. Giving feedback is one way. When giving feedback, use the feedback sandwich. Start with genuine praise and appreciation followed by constructive feedback. This will soften the blow.

If you are going to criticize, find ways to call the mistake out indirectly. One can do this by complementing the action or effort as if it was for something else. For example, if someone provides you with the wrong report, you can say something like “This is a great report if we were in sales, however, I am looking for more of this.” Also, share your own mistakes. Doing this will express how both are humans who have flaws.

Similar to tactics in persuasion, when asking someone to do something, rather than give direct orders, ask questions. These questions can help the team lead to their own conclusion, making them believe it’s their own idea.

When people make mistakes, give them the opportunity to save face.

Also, praise improvement, even if it is the slightest. Encouragement gives people an incentive to improve. For some people, receiving praise is enough encouragement to want to continue performing at a high level. With that, build a type of reputation for the person to live up to.

Lastly, make people happy for doing the things you suggest.

Key takeaways

  • Make the other person the primary focus by being genuinely interested in their lives, interests, goals, and desires.
  • Perspective is key. Always try to understand the other individual
  • Show sincere and genuine appreciation
  • Take the time to remember someone’s name.

Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie spent the first half of his life cultivating his talents that would lead him to his best selling book. As a young child, Carnegie gravitated towards public speaking, leading him to join the school’s debate team. After graduating from State Teacher’s College in Warrensburg, he began a successful career in sales. Unfulfilled by his career choice, he soon left to pursue his dream job – a Chautauqua lecturer. This led to a tumultuous path wherein the end he found himself in New York living at the YMCA. It is here where he spawned the idea of teaching public speaking. Within four years his classes became hugely successful, wherein 1916 he lectured at Carnegie Hall. These lectures sparked his first series of books that would lead to this best seller.

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