How to Win Friends & Influence People is the biggest seller for social and people’s skills of all time. And for good reasons: Dale Carnegie delivers timeless principles that will indeed make you more friends and help influence people.
- Put yourself in their shoes: appeal to their needs, understand their motives etc.
- Protect and boost people’s ego: help save face, make them feel great, let them think it was their idea etc.
- To be interesting and make friends, be interested and curious about them
Here’s a pictorial summary with all Carnegie’s principles:
Dale Carnegie says that the ability to deal with people is the most precious skill one can possess -true, check my Social Mastery Guide-.
With that out of the way, let’s get down with the principles:
Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
Principle 1: Don’t Criticize, Condemn or Complain
Dale Carnegie says that criticism is terrible when you want to influence people or change their behavior. It’s because criticism will put the recipient on the defensive and he can’t listen to you or focus on changing when he is busy defending himself.
The opposite might actually happen: to protect his ego he will make up a story to rationalize that he isn’t so wrong after all… And that you’re a jerk.
My note: criticism indeed often raises the the fight or flight response in people.
Principle 2: Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation
Appreciation takes out the best from people. Dale Carnegie says that appreciation leverages one of the most difficult needs for people to meet: the need to feel important –check Tony Robbins 6 human needs.
Carnegie says that also flattery, such as fake appreciation, might also work. It worked for Disraeli with queen Victoria, he says (Greene describes it in The Art of Seduction). But that doesn’t mean it will work for you as well. Instead, always make your appreciation sincere.
My Note: experiments showed how flattery, even when people suspect second motives, is still effective. Check Cialdini’s Influence.
If appreciating anything in people is difficult for you Carnegie recommends you adopt Ralph Emerson‘s mindset when he says -I paraphrase-:
Principle 3: Arouse in the Other Person an Eager Want
Dale Carnegie says that to get what you want from people, you must first understand what they want. And then you can present your wants and needs in a way that will satisfy their wants and needs.
Six Ways to Make People Like You
Principle 1: Become Genuinely Interested in Other People
Dale Carnegie says that the only way to make solid and lasting relationships is to be genuinely interested in them.
As someone said, to be interesting be interested.
Principle 2: Smile
Dale Carnegie says that a smile is a way of saying “I like you and you make me happy”. So smile to people when you greet them.
My note: Schaefer in The Like Switch recommends you also flash your eyebrows upwards, which is an unconscious indicator of liking and acceptance.
The author was also very prescient when he said that our actions influence our feelings as much as our feelings influence our actions. So by smiling you will also be naturally happier.
My Note: Tony Robbins says “motion creates emotions”.
Principle 3: Remember Their Names
Carnegie says people love the sound of their name more than any other sound in the world. Remember their names, which will make them feel valued.
Principle 4: Be a Good Listener
The most important element of being a good conversationalist is being a good listener. And to become a good listener, the number one rule is to care.
Principle 5: Talk in Terms of His Interests
Most people like to discuss their interests and hobbies. And that’s why Dale Carnegie recommends you talk about what interests them.
Principle 6: Make Him Feel Important
To make others feel important Carnegie recommends you ask yourself what is it about them that you admire and then give yourself an answer.
How To Win People To Your Way of Thinking
Principle 1: To Get The Best of an Argument, Avoid It
Carnegie says you will always lose in an argument. If you lose, you lose, and if you win, the other will feel resentful and you still lose.
The only way to win an argument is by avoiding it.
Principle 2: Show Respect For His Opinions
When you attack someone’s opinion, you will push them on the defensive. And again, if you get into an ideology battle, you only always lose.
The author then recommends you read the autobiography of Benjamin Frankl.
Principle 3: If You Are Wrong, Admit It
… And do so quickly and emphatically, says Carnegie. It will boost his ego and confidence, because, if you’re wrong, he must be right.
My note: Another great advantage of admitting fault is that it shows strength of character. Most people shift blame, and those who take full ownership set themselves apart.
I particularly loved the answer from Elbert Hubbard that Carnegie used as an example. When a reader sent an irate mail to attack the author’s opinion, Hubbard replied (I paraphrase):
Come to think it over, I don’t think I completely agree with it myself. Not everything I wrote yesterday appeals to me today. I am glad to learn what you think on the subject. The next time you are in the neighborhood please visit us and we’ll talk about it.
Principle 4: Begin in a Friendly Way
Anger against anger is the fool’s way of discussing and solving issues, implies the author. It will get you nowhere -except maybe to trading blows-.
Begin in a friendly way instead and you will immensely lower his guard, lower the tension and dramatically increase the chances of a resolution.
Principle 5: Get Him Saying “Yes” Immediately
Never start with disagreement as that’s a slippery slope. Start with what you agree on instead.
Carnegie says that when someone starts out saying “yes” a few times the natural tendency is to keep going with “yeses”. And he will immediately place himself in a more positive and conducive mental disposition.
Principle 6: Let Him do a great deal of the talking
Carnegie recommends you never brag and never monopolize the conversation but do the opposite: let the others do most of the talking.
Principle 7: Let Him Feel That The Idea is His
People embrace ideas quickly and work harder on them when they feel it’s their own brainchild.
So don’t push your ideas on others and fight to convince them. If you want cooperation let people feel it was their own idea. That’s also a good way to stimulate what Daniel Pink in his wonderful book Drive calls Intrinsic Motivation.
I loved the example Carnegie provides associated to selling. He says a customer was stumped among different choices -of course, The Paradox of Choice-. Instead of pitching the products the salesman asked the person what kind of product he would select best. As he described the product, the prospect came to his own conclusions as to what he should buy.
And he happily bought: it was his own idea.
Principle 8: Try to See Things From His Point of View
Our natural tendency is to judge people and immediately think we’re right and we’re wrong. But the world is rarely, if ever, so cut and dry. And one of the biggest secrets to doing well with people is always to see the situation from their point of view as well.
Dale Carnegie says if you take one only thing only from How To Win Friends & Influence People, is that of making a habit of looking from the other people’s perspective. Not to simply understand their opinion, but why they are even having those opinions in the first place.
Principle 9: Be Sympathetic With His Ideas and Desires
Carnegie says that people ache for understanding and sympathy. Instead of giving them the battle they might expect, he suggests one sentence that will put to rest any argument (I paraphrase):
I don’t blame you for feeling the way you feel. If I were you, I would feel the exact same way.
My note: this sentence is simple and genius.
Principle 10: Appeal to The Nobler Motives
Dale Carnegie says that when you appeal to nobler motives, you will make people want to rise up to the noble trait that you bestow upon them.
Principle 11: Dramatize Your Ideas
Dramatizing your idea basically means having a good marketing for your product. Simply stating the truth is not enough, you have to make it appealing.
Principle 12: Throw Down a Challenge
When nothing else works, Dale Carnegie recommend you make it a challenge so that people want to win as if it were a game.
This is the same concepts games use: put a score on a game against someone else or against a computer and people will work hard to increase that number.
Be a Leader: How To Change People
Principle 1: Begin With Praise and Honest Appreciation
Dale Carnegie says that if you must criticize someone, first find something good they have done and begin with that.
The author also highlights the danger of the word “but”, which negates anything you previously said. Don’t say then “you did great, BUT… “, but say “you did great and you can do even better if… “.
My note: The “sandwich feedback technique” is so popular today you better stay away from it. Everyone knows the praise is setting the stage for the critique and they won’t even believe it. Check out Daring Greatly for a great feedback example instead (Ctrl+f and write “feedback”).
Principle 2: Call Attention to People’s Mistakes Indirectly
Same as for criticizing, directly pointing out people’s mistakes is a sure fire way to put them on the defensive. Telling someone “you’ve done a mistake” is like telling people “you’re wrong”. And it hurts the most when done publicly.
My note: Simon Sinek says in Leaders Eat Last that the task of a leader is to defend his team. And well, sometimes you also need to defend their ego.
Principle 3: Talk About Your Own Mistakes Before Criticizing Him
Dale Carnegie says it’s easier to take criticism when the person criticizing us admits to his mistakes or his own imperfection.
When we can share the blame, blame hurts less. And when we make ourselves imperfect, we are more likely to be accepted.
My note: this even more useful with superiors, as Robert Greene says: never outshine your master-.
Principle 4: Ask Questions Instead of Giving Direct Orders
Dale Carnegie says that nobody likes to take orders: it make us feel subordinate and less important. So give suggestions instead of orders.
Principle 5: Let the Other Person Save Face
People will resent if we hurt their ego or insult their skills, especially if publicly. Always think of way to save people’s face instead.
General Electric had a brilliant engineer who was doing very poorly as a department head. Demoting was likely going to be very costly to his ego. So the company instead gave him a big title and moved him somewhere else in a way that if felt he was being promoted.
Principle 6: Praise Every improvement
If you want people to keep improving, give them praise for every improvement. He will feel good for doing well and will be motivated to keep going.
My note: Carnegie is basically suggesting here to use positive reinforcement in what in psychology is known as operant conditioning.
Principle 7: Give Him a Fine Reputation to Live Up To
When you give people a good reputation the tendency is to act in accordance with that reputation. It’s partly because being find out not as good would hurt us, and partially because we want to keep that good trait real.
Identity drives behavior, so when people start liking and believing in a new identity, they will act accordingly.
Principle 8: Encourage. Make The Fault Seem Easy to Correct
If a task seem too big or if people feel like they are far too unskilled to accomplish it, they will lose heart and fail to act.
Encourage them instead, build up their ego. And make the effort seem within their grasp. Then they will be motivated to act.
Principle 9: Make Him Happy About Doing What You Suggest
When you want someone to do something, make them feel happy and proud of the task at hand. Tell them their rare skills and talent make them the best fit for the job.
Making Your Home Life Happier
This section was included in the original book but not in the revised version. It could indeed be easily summarized as saying that all previous principles apply to your relationship as well. The most interesting for me were:
- Don’t nag / criticize
- Don’t try to change your partner
- Give honest appreciation
- Don’t over-emphasize the details
- Read a good book on the sexual side of marriage
If you’re interested in relationship books, head over to my relationships book summaries.
Real Life Applications
Most of us would do great in remembering this very simple advise: appreciate, compliment and encourage more.
Put Yourself In Their Shoes
Whether you need to engage someone for for a crucial conversation, to better understand their needs, or to lead with what’s in it for them, it’s a great habit to always put yourself in their shoes first. It doesn’t mean you concede they are right, but it means you consider their perspective.
Structure: Principles Last
Carnegie first tells the examples, and then gives readers the principle. While we do learn via examples and the “aha moment” is great to burn concepts in our mind, I think it’s most useful to give the main concept first. As I explain in my reading effectively guide, when we know what’s coming we prepare our mind for leaning.
Geared Towards Average Joes
Carnegie’s principles work. Keep in mind though that the highest achievers appreciate the truth too. Even if it might hurt them at the beginning, they want people who can tell it as it is. As Ray Dalio says, for top achievement you must love the truth even it hurts. And it doesn’t even have to hurt by the way. I encourage you to take care of what you build your self esteem around. Read my article on how to build an antifragile ego.
The Power Moves Note
Lastly I’d like to add that some individual might interpret your ego-protecting and pain-avoiding attitude as weakness. Make sure you use these techniques because you care about people or because you want to achieve certain results. But NOT because you’re afraid of being blunt and honest.
How to Win Friends and Influence People presents great and timeless social advise. It’s based on sound psychology and even if you’re an advanced students of the social arts, it’s still a great refresher.
Also great is that Carnegie uses the many real life examples to back his principles.
If you like the author, check also How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.
Get the book
Click here, make friends and get this timeless book on Amazon.