The Art of People: Summary & Review

the art of people by Dave Kerpen

In The Art of People, Dave Kerpen teaches readers how to increase their people’s skills and build strong and functioning social relationships.

Bullet Summary

  • People skills start by understanding yourself first
  • Learning to understand people is key to getting along with people
  • Make sure you put people in positions where they can excel

The Art of People Summary

 Dave Kerpen starts telling his story of showing up to parties with Jessica Alba and Paris Hilton and being paid 5 to 10k just for being there.

Yet, he was miserable.
LA’s jet-set is not the best place to build connections, he says. And he realized that to be happy, and successful both in business and in life, you need to be good with people.

I couldn’t agree more.

The 11 Skills to Master The Art of People

Here is the list of the 11 skills to master the art of people:

  • Understanding yourself

The author says that the Myers-Briggs personality test, one of the most popular tests today and one espoused by Vanessa van Edwards in Captivate, is actually a poor test for people’s attitudes (and he’s right).

The author says instead that the best personality test is the Enneagram of Personality.

The author says that self-awareness is the fundamental building block upon which the art of people is built and you can’t get good with people unless you learn about yourself first.

  • Understanding people

To understand people, you must listen more and ask deep questions.

Like for example “what’s the most exciting (personal) project you’re working on right now”, “if you had enough money to retire, what would you do today”, “if you weren’t doing what you’re doing right now what would you be doing and why”, “who’s been the most important influence/role model on you”, “if you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be”.

The author also quotes the famous statement from Dage Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People“:

To be interested be interesting

Dale Carnegie
  • Meeting the right people

The author recommends wearing something “strange” and “attention-catching”.
This is an old technique that the pick-up artists called “peacocking” (The Game, The Mystery Method) and Leil Lowndes called “What’s It” in How to Talk to Anyone.

I have never been a big fan of this theory. I believe that you can catch attention without wearing red or orange shoes.

I liked here his suggestion on leveraging LinkedIn, such as: write all schools, organizations, and activities you’ve been part of, adding everyone you know, ask for intro through LinkedIn instead of directly inboxing.

Also read: conversation starters and pick-up lines.

  • Connecting with people

Always accept the drink or candy that you are being offered.

The author says that showing your authentic self is a great way of connecting with people.
He recounts a story of him not being able to fight off tears and crying on stage, as it happened to more executives right after.
They all bonded with each other and remembered that event as a courageous, life-changing day.

My Note: I agree, but I also need to warn the readers that vulnerability is not always your best choice. Also read: vulnerability is not power.

  • Influencing people

To change people’s minds avoid the sales pitch.

Dave Kerpen explains that you people don’t like being sold to.
Instead, focus on storytelling. It allows you to share about yourself and it allows people to connect with you at an emotional level.
It’s not a technique, it’s more authentic.

  • Changing people’s minds

Don’t tell people it’s your idea, ban “I have an idea” or “I have a great idea”.
Let them believe it’s their idea instead. You can do it by feeding broad or vague strands they can flash out themselves to feel like they did it.

Finally, the author repeats a big mantra of sales books: to ask for what you need.

You never get what you don’t ask for

  • Teaching people

Don’t tell people how to do something, show them.

One of the keys to teaching well is to first understand what people are good at. You can spend years teaching something to someone who’s not suited for the job. They will be able to teach you in a matter of weeks if it’s something they’re naturally good at and love doing.

  • Leading people

Dave Kerpen says that a leader must only do three things: 1. setting a vision for your team; 2. making sure you have the right people sitting in the right position in your team, 3. making sure you have enough resources and money to succeed.

Also read: best leadership books.

  • Resolving conflicts with people

The author recommends hiring slowly and firing fast.

People stay in dysfunctional relationships and abusive relationships for way too long. Much better to get out fast when you see the signs that relationships aren’t working.

  • Inspiring people

Inspiring the audience is about them, not you.
They don’t really care about you, you must make it about them.

The author also says that when he started sharing inspiring quotes his social media following exploded.

My Note: I am not a big fan of “inspirational porn”. It’s empty and not the best use of your time in my opinion.

  • Keeping people happy

The author recommends you come up with surprises and thoughtful gifts.

Another good idea similar to Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi is to introduce people who can be helpful to each other and mention their strengths.

Also read: The Happiness Advantage and The Happiness Project.

Real-Life Applications

Ruthless Prioritization
The author borrows the name “ruthless prioritization” from Sheryl Salzberg, author of Lean In, and I love the concept.
It consists of shaking ends at the beginning and at the end to signal the allotted time, going straight to the point, providing value, and doing and saying no more than necessary.

Call The Bluff
If you think someone is bluffing you should call the bluff and test their hands. Maybe they are not bluffing and then you will have an indicator they might be trustworthy. But if you realize they are bluffing, then you know what you are dealing with.

Don’t Criticize Publicly
The author recommends never to criticize people in front of others. It leads to shame and resentment.
Instead, set out a 1:1 meeting and praise publicly.


“Contact Me & I’ll Answer As Soon As I Can?”
Personally, I always felt odd when an author said that.
Who can make that promise?
And how can you make that promise if you want to build meaningful relationships, which take time and can hardly be done via Twitter or Linkedin?
It sounds more like a technique to get more followers, to be honest, so the author can write:

The #1 LinkedIn Influencer of all time in pageviews, ahead of Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Mark Cuban and Barack Obama

That’s not my style.
But probably in social media speak it might be proof of something. Though of what, I’m not sure.

Be Happy or Be Right? Relationship Power Dynamics
I disagree with this mantra of some men that in a relationship you can either be happy or right. To me, that’s weak sauce. Also, read female relationship control.

Poor Example of Feedback Sandwich Technique
I think the sandwich technique to give out feedback does not work well. Everyone knows it and nobody listens to the positive part because they all know it’s a fake construct to actually deliver the bad part.
To do better, check out Thanks for The Feedback.

Sending Private Inspirational Content?
Dave Kerpen shares how to grow your audience by sharing helpful and inspirational content (EEI: educational, entertaining, inspiring).
I’m not a fan of inspirational content, but fine.
However, I really didn’t like the recommendation of sharing good content privately. I think it’s overbearing. And busy people would probably not react too well to receiving even more personal messages of content they didn’t ask for.

Don’t Seek to Convince But Change Your Mindset?
The author tells the story of an argument he had with his wife and that instead of convincing her he finally changed his mindset only for his wife to eventually come around and agree with him.
I don’t agree with that attitude though.


A good overview of social skills and some good tips.

the art of people by Dave Kerpen


I got a few great new ideas from The Art of People.

I didn’t agree with a few tips and recommendations but overall I think it’s a good book.

Check the best social skills books or get the book on Amazon

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