The quintessential development book for social interactions, Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People“ has gone on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide since its release, and is listed as a one of the Top 25 most influential books of all time by Time Magazine. And while the book does stand the test of time to deliver some solid advice on social interactions, the entire premise of the book can be boiled down into a few points, three to be exact. At just under 300 pages, it is a quick enough read that it would still be worth reading over for yourself, but here is a quick primer on the key takeaways, some of the building blocks for interacting both at work and at home.
Executive Summary: The book boils down to two main concepts in line with the title. How to Win Friends = Make people feel important. How to Influence People = Make them want to do what you want them to do out of their own volition. And in all things, be diplomatic with people. The high road will always pay dividends in the end.
- Be Diplomatic
- Don’t criticize (will only upset the other and make them defensive)
- Praise often, at every improvement in others
- Don’t call direct attention to others mistakes, and lead with your own mistakes before discussing the other’s mistake
- Say “I may be wrong, and frequently am, so let’s examine the facts” (not word for word though)
- Make their faults seem easy to correct, always encourage – “I make that mistake all the time”
- Even when you are right, win people gently and tactfully to your way of thinking, don’t try to bowl them over with the force of your correctness
- Ask questions instead of giving orders
- “Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices” – Emerson
- Make the Other Person Feel Important
- Do this by making them feel appreciated
- Remember their name, find out what they like. Ask questions
- Nourish other’s self-esteem same as you would nourish their bodies by giving them food
- Give titles and authority to people, even if they are really meaningless. Again, makes them feel important, and brings out the nobler character within them
- This is something that Napoleon Bonaparte was famous for with his soldiers. Even called them the Grande Armee, as an example.
- Influence by Making People Want to Act of Their Own Accord
- Give them what they want. Focus on how they will benefit from what you want, and frame the request in that manner
- Galileo Quote: “You can’t teach a man anything. You can only help him to find it within himself”
- Respect others opinions, don’t directly say they’re wrong.
- Admit your wrongs, and if wrong, admit it quickly. Don’t pass the blame on others
- Get the other person saying “Yes, Yes”
- Socratic method of asking questions to reason their way into your way of thinking
- Appeal to their nobler motives
- Give the other person a reputation to try to live up to
- Sympathize with others ideas, and try to see their point of view
- So they don’t feel alone. No one wants to feel alone
- Tell a story. Dramatize your idea (Think of Malcolm Gladwell. Great ability to take dull scientific data and weave it into a captivating story that drives home the key points you would otherwise gloss over)
Other Notes / Quotes
- “When dealing with people, let us remember that we are not dealing with creatures of logic; we are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”
- Win the heart first, then the head
- Win a man to your cause by first convincing him you are his sincere friend. There is the “honey which catches his heart, the great high road to his reason“.
- 99% of the time people don’t criticize themselves for anything
- “Be wiser than other people if you can, but do not tell them so”
- Everything we do springs from two motives (According to Sigmund Freud):
- 1) Sex urge
- 2) The desire to be great/important
- Alfred Adler – “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life, and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring”
- People don’t want to feel sold. They want to buy. Similar to the main concept of The Little Red Book of Selling
- At one point in the book there is a story of woman, new at her job, who is not making any friends or acquaintances
- Finally tells herself “Maria, you can’t expect these women to come to you, you have to go out and meet them”
- Takeaway is that in a new situation, the onus is on the new person to go out and meet the existing people. Be a self-starter, don’t be dependent on others to feel included
- Good quote – “Do not fear being misunderstood and do not waste a minute thinking about your enemies. Try to fix firmly in your mind what you want to do, and then, without veering off direction, you will move straight to the goal. Keep your mind on the great and splendid things you would like to do, and then, as the days go gliding away, you will find yourself unconsciously seizing upon the opportunities that are required for the fulfillment of your desire … Picture in your mind the able, earnest, useful person you desire to be, and the thought you hold is hourly transforming you into that particular individual. Thought is supreme”
- Be forceful and assertive whenever you meet someone new to introduce yourself, and then remember their name in the future. Alleviates ice, puts you on friendly terms right away.
- Unrelated thought from the rest of the book, but a concept that I still found meaningful: Andrew Carnegie was limited in his steel making knowledge. He just knew how to manage, lead, and organize people who knew more than he did.
- Advocates that if lack of experience, not lack of ability, is reason for failure, then this is ok
- Overlook people’s faults, even if they are overwhelmingly glaring
- Instead, focus on even the little things they do right and praise those things.
- Praise the improvement, and they will take heart in that, gain confidence, and turn other aspects around as well
- However, this is mostly oriented toward people with little experience, new people. Not pre-established relationships
- If accurate, good quote: “All men have fears, but the brave put down their fears and go forward, sometimes to death, but always to victory” – King’s Guard in Ancient Greece
I hope you find these notes to be useful and thought-provoking. Again, these are just my takeaways from the book and don’t encapsulate the entire message. If you’re interested in delving deeper and reading the book for yourself, and want to support the page, you can grab a copy here.
And if you want even more, here is a list of books within the same topic (social interactions) that I have found useful:
- Emotional Intelligence
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (the second half of the book)