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 methods Carnegie describes about 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.
Much for my own benefit and reference, 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.
Think of How to Win Friends and Influence People, as oil for the gears of society.
1. “Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.”
It just makes people defensive and breeds resentment. Criticizing and condemning makes it harder for someone to admit they are wrong, because they now feel the desire to justify their actions or thoughts. Even if they change their ways, it will not be lasting.
2. “Give honest and sincere appreciation.”
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 commending.
3. “Arouse in the other person an eager want.”
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 strawberries and cream? Talk about the other person’s desires, and show them how to get there.
4. “Become genuinely interested in other people.”
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. Don’t you feel special when someone truly cares about your accomplishments, goals, and hobbies?
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.
6. “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Remember names! (This is one I really had to work on; I had a habit of being too frazzled when meeting people to remember there names, even seconds later). And say their name often. It shows others they are important enough to you to be remembered. Better yet, name something after them!
7. “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.”
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 things that we are passionate about and want to talk about. When we find a sincerely interested audience, it makes us feel appreciated and important.
8. “Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.”
If you are interested in others, they will be interested in you. But like everything else here, people can tell when you are faking it. 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.
9. “Make the other person feel important–and do it sincerely.”
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.
10. “The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.”
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.
11. “Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, ‘you’re wrong.”
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.
12. “If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”
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.
13. “Begin in a friendly way.”
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.”
14. “Get the other person saying, ‘yes, yes’ immediately.”
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.”
15. “Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.”
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 evaporates.
16. “Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.”
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.
17. “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”
“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.”
18. “Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.”
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.
19. “Appeal to the nobler motives.”
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.”
20. “Dramatize your ideas.”
“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.
21. “Throw down a challenge.”
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?
22. “Begin with praise and honest appreciation.”
“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.
23. “Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.”
Change the word “but” to “and”. Begin with sincere praise, but 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.
24. “Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.”
I have a treasure trove of mistakes to pull from, so I expect this tactic to come easy if I ever need to use it! 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.
25. “Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.”
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.
26. “Let the other person save face.”
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.
27. “Praise the slightest improvement, and praise every improvement.”
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.
28. “Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.”
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.
29. “Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.”
Telling someone they are terrible at something is a sure way to discourage them, make them internalize that feeling, and perhaps even give up. Instead, tell someone they just need practice to get better. Pick out the good from the bad to encourage perseverance, and better outcomes, and any mistakes will naturally smooth out.
30. “Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.”
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.
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.