How to Win Friends and Influence People Summary

The title of this book screams – “how to manipulate people”.  Well, at least it did to me. But after reading it, I can say it’s actually a great book with sound principals that are genuine in nature.  Dale’s methods are still used today in business and personal life, even though many are thought to be new and revolutionary by some.

Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends & Influence People in 1936 and it outlines some effective ways to deal with people in a positive way. Dale stresses that you must be genuine and sincere in your approach.  If you are not genuine, people will see through it and know you are trying to manipulate them.  Dale Carnegie was originally a sales man, but then became a public speaker.  Warren Buffet even took one of his courses when he was just 20 years old.

The book is broken down into four parts

Part 1 – Fundamental techniques in handling people

Part 2 – Six ways to make people like you

Part 3 – How to win people to your way of thinking (persuasion)

Part 4 – Be a leader – How to change people (without resentment)

Without further ado, let’s get into the book.

Part 1 – Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

Principle 1 – Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.   

B.F. Skinner, a famous psychologist, showed that animals that are rewarded for good behavior, learn faster and remember better than animals who are punished.

More studies throughout the years have shown that this can be applied to humans as well. When you criticize someone, nothing is gained.  Criticism can lead to increased aggression, resentment, and fear (which can lead to undesirable behaviors).  Criticism will not bring about any positive changes, so just don’t do it.  This is of course easier said than done.  Bring awareness to it first by paying attention to the way you interact with people.

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

So, do your best not to criticize or complain about anyone (or anything).  This also means not complaining to your friends or family about other people (or situations).  Don’t get me wrong – it is healthy to talk about issues/problems, just don’t get carried away and make it your life story.  When you constantly complain, you focus on the negative.  Whatever you focus on grows.

Principal 2 – Give honest and sincere appreciation

The deepest principal in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.  Dale Carnegie

Honest and sincere appreciation goes a long way.  This has to come from the heart though.  This cannot be flattery – people see through that.

This practice is very effective in the work place.  It is also very helpful at home in your personal life.  When you appreciate something a loved one has done and you express those feelings to them, you are lifting them up.  Since you are also focusing on their positive attributes, you will begin to associate that person with those qualities and that will strengthen the relationship making it more open and receptive.  It’s a win-win.

This may seem like a very obvious notion, but not nearly enough people practice it.   So, thank someone at work or in your family for what they do.

Principle 3 – Arouse in the other person an eager want

It’s not about what you want.  Sure, you are interested in what you want, but no one else is.  So, in order to get someone to do something you want, you have to consider what the other person wants and needs.  You must understand their perspective.

To persuade someone to do something you want them to do, you have to present it in terms of what motivates them.  You have to convince them that it is in their best interest to do the thing.  For example, you submit a resume and then a memo stating why you are qualified to work there.  Instead, the memo should state why that company needs you.  Frame it in terms of what they want.

The next time you need something done, ask yourself, how can I get this person to want to do it? How can I make it beneficial for them?  You aren’t trying to manipulate them.  You are sincerely trying to make the task beneficial to both parties.

Part 2 – Six Ways to Make People Like you

The title of this part of the book had me squirming.  How to “make people like you” just sounds shallow and desperate.  I say be yourself and if people like your company, then great, if not, then that’s okay too.  With that said, these six tips can help those who want to make a better impression.   I do find them helpful because we might not be aware of the things we are doing to put people off.  Awareness is always good.

Principle 1 – Become genuinely interested in other people

You know why people love dogs?  They are excited to see you every single time you come home.  Dog’s show interest in us and we love them for it.

A dog makes his living by giving you nothing but love.  Dale Carnegie

Well guess what?  The same is true for people.  When you show interest in someone or admire someone (genuine interest and admiration, not creepy stalker admiration), that person will like you.

When you talk to people, do you ask them about their background and interests, or do you just talk about yourself the whole time?  You won’t have many friends if you are just talking about your own interests all the time.  Find out what other people’s hobbies/interests are and ask them about it.

Principle 2 – Smile

The power of smiling cannot be understated.  Nobody wants to interact with someone displaying the infamous resting b*tch face.  Smiles are so powerful that you can even sense if someone is smiling through a phone conversation.

I don’t mean a fake mechanical smile, I mean a real, big, happy smile!  Smiling not only sends signals to other people of, “hey I’m friendly and happy to see you”, but smiling also makes you feel better too.  One smile can change someone’s day.  So, don’t be cheap with your smiles.

It can feel awkward to smile at a stranger, but just keep it quick and sincere.  Do not lock eyes and smile for more than 2 seconds… Unless you want to give off the “I’m a serial killer vibe”.

Principle 3 – Remember that a person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language

People like hearing their name.  When you meet, greet, or say goodbye, including their name can be powerful.  They will remember you.

Don’t believe me?   Think about a time when someone has misspelled your name, or mispronounced it.  It is not exactly an insult, but it can feel that way.  It can give you the impression that they don’t care about you enough to even remember your name.  In order to cultivate the opposite response, remember other people’s names, how to spell it, and make sure to use it when you see them.

The U.S. memory champ has some tips on remembering names:

1 – Meet and repeat – Repeat their name when you meet them

2 – Spell it out – Spell it out in your head and write it down after the conversation if it’s unusual

3 – Associate – Associate the name with something unique about the person

4 – Make connections – Make a connection between that person and someone you know/someone famous

5 – Choose to care – Make a conscious decision that you are going to remember their name because you care about the people that you meet

Principle 4 – Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves

Nobody wants to talk to someone that talks about themselves constantly, right?  The conversation should flow both ways.  If you listen to someone intently and ask them questions, they will enjoy talking with you.  Be engaged, encourage them to talk, and be a sympathetic listener.  Everyone likes a good listener.  Additionally, if someone is angry, you can usually help them calm down simply by listening.

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

As we stated before, most people are interested in themselves.  They don’t want to hear about you and your problems, etc.  Instead of thinking what you are going to say next, just sit and listen intently.

Principle 5 – Talk in terms of the other person’s interests

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

When you talk to someone about their interests or hobbies, they instantly become hooked and engaged in the conversation and to you.  Think about a time when you talked to a stranger or an acquaintance and you found out they are into something you enjoy too.  That common ground can spark a friendship instantly.  If they came up to you and started a conversation about a topic you enjoy, I bet that you liked that person right away.

This is an effective way to warm or soften someone up.  This may sound a little manipulative, but it works well in business.  Before asking someone what you want, talk to them about a topic of their interest.  Theodore Roosevelt even went as far as researching topics he knew his guests/visitors enjoyed the night prior to meeting them.

Principle 6 – Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

This principle is simply about paying compliments to people about their skill/talent because it makes them feel good.  There is nothing wrong with spreading a little love or telling someone you admire their handy work, whatever that may be.  Don’t do it to get something in return, just give a compliment.

Try and give the compliments to people who are often overlooked and not thanked enough – the waitress or waiter, the toll booth employee, the janitor, the cashier, etc.  Give 1 compliment per day.  It may feel silly at first, but it will get easier and can become fun!  It can even improve your own self-esteem and confidence.

Part 3 –  How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

Principle 1 –  The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it

Dale Carnegie stated that it’s impossible to win an argument because when you lose, you lose.  When you win, you will make the other person feel inferior, hurt their pride, and create an atmosphere for resentment.  So, you’re still losing.

Discussing valid concerns and problems that arise in your life, is necessary.  Arguing and getting too emotionally involved isn’t necessary.  The best way to win people over to your way of thinking is to avoid arguing all together.  Arguing will only pit you against the other person.  Arguing will only cause you to become more rigid in your way of thinking.

Even if you’re right and they are wrong, what will arguing do to resolve the issue?  Nothing.  If there is nothing to be gained from the conflict (other than being right), then let it go.  Being right is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Your needing to be right is a self serving one, so try letting it go during your next argument (if there is no obvious benefit) and see how you feel.  It’s not as easy as it sounds.  Some people have a very strong ego and this is extremely difficult for them to do.

If it is a real problem that you need to resolve (and not a petty argument), consider the following tips:

Discuss it after the emotional tension has subsided.  When you are not so emotionally charged or angered, you can look at the problem from multiple angles and get a better understanding of the problem itself.  Trying to resolve the issue when your temper is out of control is a recipe for failure.  Take a time out, step back, relax, reflect, and try to understand the issue from all sides.  Then you can resolve the problem with a clear head.

When faced with an argument, welcome the disagreement as a new point of view for you to consider.  Disagreements can help us to expand our horizons.  We must remain open to new ideas and perspectives in order for us to grow.

When discussing a problem, be sympathetic to their perspective.  Listen, acknowledge, and respect their stance on the issue.  This will soften them up and lighten the mood.  Hostilities will subside.  Their defenses will come down and they will become more open.  Be honest with them and yourself.  If you’re wrong, admit it – more on that in principle 3.

Ask yourself if the other person is right.  Our first impression during an argument is to say “I’m right”.  News flash, you’re not always right!  That’s your ego talking.  You may be wrong, so have the courage to challenge your own opinion on the matter.

Principle 2 – Show respect for the other person’s opinions.  Never say “you’re wrong”

Do you want the person you are debating with to be unwavering in their stance?  Tell them flat out – “You’re wrong!”  When you tell someone they are wrong, their defenses go up instantly and it’s very difficult for them to see your point of view.  They will see it as a challenge and will stand their ground.

It’s a much softer approach if you state, “I may be wrong, but I thought…”  This statement won’t put people on the defensive.  They are not being threatened, so they will become more open and receptive to your ideas.  Instead of telling someone they are wrong, ask them why they think that way. Attempt to gain an understanding of their reasoning.

Principle 3 – If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically

No one is perfect and we will all make mistakes.  It’s what you do after that defines your path forward.

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

Interestingly, when you get caught doing something you’re not supposed to and admit it right away, most people will be more lenient on you.  So, before you get reprimanded for something, just let the cat out of the bag  right away.  If you reprimand yourself before the other person has a chance to do it, they will go easier on you.  It changes the whole dynamic.  Getting caught and trying to defend yourself when you don’t have a leg to stand on is not going to end well.

Have you ever had that realization mid-argument that you are in fact wrong?  What a terrible  feeling!  I know, I’ve been there.  It’s easiest just to admit you’re wrong and press on.  Being upfront and honest is always a better way.  Who wants to live in a web of lies?  You’ll get caught anyways and the repercussions will be much worse than if you just admitted it in the beginning.  Admitting you are wrong is hard, but when you do it, you will gain respect and have more open and honest relationships. Take responsibility for it and take action to change it.

Principle 4 – Begin in a friendly way

A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.   Dale Carnegie

You are going to be much more successful in getting someone to your way of thinking if you approach them in a friendly way.  If you approach them yelling at the top of your lungs, they will likely react in the same way.  Approach them in a friendly manner and ask them to discuss the problem over a coffee break.  Get to know them a little bit through some small talk (see Part 2 above).  Of course, be genuine in your discussion because people will see through manipulation.  Find the areas you are in agreement with to gain a middle ground and then dive into the problem areas.  Talk to them as you would a close friend, not as a boss or dominant figure.

Think about it – When someone is angry at you, it’s very difficult to agree with them, even if they’re right.

Principle 5 – Get the other person saying “yes” immediately

As mentioned earlier, start off with things that you have in common on the topic or issue.  You want to initially engage in a way that will have the other party in agreement.  Once someone says no, they become more closed off and it’s difficult to get them to reverse it because their pride and ego rests with them defending that position.

On the other hand, when someone is already saying yes, it’s easier to keep them moving in that direction.  They are open and accepting when they are saying yes.  Try it on yourself, just saying “no” makes you closed off.  Saying “yes” aloud feels good and encourages you to be more open.

Dale Carnegie goes on to talk about Socrates and the Socratic method.  This is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue which is based on asking/answering questions that stimulate our critical thinking faculty.  This can be effective especially if we do not let our ego’s get in the way.

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

You are basically taking the person down a road, a line of questioning, until they arrive at the same conclusion as you.  You continually ask questions until a contradiction is exposed which proves a fallacy in the initial assumption.  This can be tricky, but it is effective.  It sounds complicated, but it’s simple… Ask them questions they have to say yes to until you have them cornered… in a non-threatening, cooperative sort of way, of course… 🙂

Principle 6 – Let the other person do a great deal of talking

People want their opinions to be heard.  People are often most frustrated when they are not being acknowledged and listened to.  Let them vent about it a little and allow them to express their concerns.  Do not interrupt them.  They are not going to listen to us if we are interrupting them because they are thinking about all the things they want to say.  Encourage them to express their thoughts and listen attentively.  Keep asking questions.

Principle  7 – Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers

Do you prefer doing something that is your idea or someone else’s?  Obviously you are more likely to follow through with something if you came up with the idea.  That’s the premise of this principle.  When you let other people feel like it’s their idea, they will run with it.  Empower others to come up with solutions through questioning.  When it’s their idea, they will be motivated to do it.

For example, you have a recurring problem with poor customer service at work.  You ask them, “How do you feel you did with that last customer?” Point our the positive things they did, and then ask “What would you do differently?” or “In what ways can we improve?” When they suggest ways to improve, you say “great ideas, let’s try that next time.”  Sounds like a cheesy work training video, but if you approach them as a person and not as a superior, this method of empowerment can be quite effective.  You are essentially guiding them in the right direction and letting them have credit for the improvements they suggest.

Consult with your work team and seek ways to improve.  Involving them will get them engaged.  You will have their buy-in.  Nobody likes to be told what to do, so let them have some inputs too.

Principle 8 – Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view

This ties right into the other principles we have been talking about thus far.  Try your best to understand their point of view.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Put away your bias and you opinions.  Have an open mind.  People don’t do things just because they want to be jerks.  Everyone  has motives for their actions.  Attempt to gain their perspective and you will understand why they do what they do.  This can be powerful.  This is related to principle 5, part 2 – Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

Principle 9 – Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires

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

There is a phrase that will disarm someone instantly and create a more positive environment for interactions – “I don’t blame you at all for feeling the way you do.  If I were you, I would undoubtedly feel the same way.”   Be sincere when you say it, otherwise it’s meaningless to say. If you were in their position, I bet you would act in a very similar fashion.  Turn hostility into friendliness by first sympathizing with their point of view.  They will likely do the same thing to you.

Principle 10 – Appeal to the nobler motives

Most people want to do the right thing.  When you hold people to their word (in a gentle way), they are more likely to fulfill their obligations.  If we say to someone, “I know you are honest and fair, and you will do the right thing”, they will (most likely) take it upon themselves to do what is right simply because you view them as that kind of person.

For example, you tell your employee that you were surprised that they were late on an assignment because they are usually so diligent, hard working, and prompt with their assignments.  This can encourage your employee to make themselves try harder to fit that ideal image.

Principle 11 – Dramatize your ideas

People are much more outspoken these days (compared to 1936 when this book was written), so this is not something new.  Actually, most people over exaggerate these days.  If you’re the quiet type, make sure that you present your ideas in a fun, dramatic, and lively way.  Be creative in your approach and make it captivating.

Principle 12 – 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

Friendly competition can be fun!   It doesn’t have to be ugly.  Friendly competition can bring out the best in some people.  If the work itself is not enough to motivate your people, make it into a game.  Offer rewards or incentives if your kids, employees, etc. go above and beyond.

Part 4 –  Be a Leader: How to Change People

Principle 1 –  Begin with praise and honest appreciation

Being a leader and trying to change people’s behavior can be difficult.  Our goal is to change their behavior without causing resentment.  Before trying to change someone’s behavior, always begin by praising their current efforts.  Focus on their strengths.  If someone develops a presentation that isn’t appropriate for that forum, tell them where it would be a great fit and suggest why it would be a better fit for that area.

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

Start with the positive, then give them constructive feedback, and then end with another positive.

Principle 2 – Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly

Nobody wants to be criticized, especially in front of other people.  When you need to point out a mistake, do not do it in a pointed and offensive manner, and do it in private.  There is a great trick that Dale suggests in his book.  Instead of using the word “but” right before a critique, use the word “and”.   Which one sounds better:

I am proud of you for getting good grades this semester, BUT if you tried harder in your English class, you would have done much better.


I am proud of you for getting good grades this semester, AND if you continue your efforts next semester, your English grade can be up with all the others.

As you can see, the first one has praise in the beginning, but the word “but” deflates it because the second part of the statement contradicts the first. The second sentence is obviously a better choice because you are praising the individual and then encouraging them to do better in the future.

Principle 3 – Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person

We all make mistakes, and when you admit your own short comings to other people, they let their defenses down.  You are much more willing to listen to someone’s input when they state that they are far from perfect and have made many mistakes before.

Realize that good judgement comes from experience, so people will make mistakes.  When you approach someone on their flaws, explain that you once made similar mistakes and that they are doing better than you did when you were in their shoes many years ago.  And then go on to give them some advice.  This is your opportunity to become a mentor to them.

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 instead of giving direct orders

Again, nobody wants to be told to do this or do that.  It can work, but it is highly ineffective, especially in the long term.  Instead, get the person’s buy in.  Ask them if they think their method will work.  Give them the chance to try their own way.  When you give someone the chance to figure things out on their own, or correct problems by their own methods, you empower them and give them a feeling of pride and importance.

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

This principle is pretty simple.  There is no reason to belittle someone or make them feel bad.  When faced with the tough act of delivering bad information to someone, consider how you can make that person feel good about themselves beforehand.  For example, you have to let someone go from your company (due to budget cuts, downsizing, etc.).  Instead of just letting them go, tell them how valuable they have been and point out some of their specific qualities before letting them go.  They will feel better about themselves.  There is no need to embarrass someone, so consider their pride when delivering bad news.

Principle 6 – Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement.     

Focus on the positive!  When you focus on the good attributes of a person, those qualities begin to shine through even stronger.  Praise, even the smallest of compliments, can change lives.  It can shape lives.  Think of a time when a small compliment shaped your day or week.

Don’t be afraid to tell someone they have done a great job, even on the smallest of things.  You have the ability to catapult other people’s potential. Bring awareness to their potential.  Be as specific as possible in your praise, otherwise it may come off as insincere, especially if you are always using the same statement to everyone.

Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.   Dale Carnegie

Principle  7 – Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to

This principle ties into appealing to people’s nobler motives.  When you speak highly of a person, they will strive to meet that reputation.

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

Principle 8 – Use encouragement.   Make the fault seem easy to correct

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

When you tell someone they suck at this or that, they may start to believe it.   They will lose motivation to improve and they will flounder in their efforts.  Instead, let them know that you believe in their ability to do the thing.  Encourage them to keep trying because you know they can do it. Celebrate small improvements.  Small wins create motivation, belief, and momentum.

Principle 9 – Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest

To get employees (or our children) to do what we want them to do, you must first understand what their motivations are.  What makes them happy? Think about what you can give them that would make them happy to do something for you.  For a child, give them a dollar for each chore completed. For someone who doesn’t get promoted, tell them they are too important in their current position to be moved.  Put someone in charge of a certain task if they struggle with it.

Be sincere and don’t promise something you can’t deliver.


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