“How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a classic self-help book.
Dale Carnegie aims to give practical principles to help you improve your interpersonal skills and become a leader.
Like Carnegie’s Book, this How To Win Friends and Influence People summary is in four parts:
- Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
- Ways to Make People Like You
- How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
- Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
Through these techniques, Carnegie claims you can:
- Get out of a rut, realize your ambitions
- Make friends more easily
- Become more popular
- Win people to your ideas
- Increase your influence
- Manage conflicts
- Improve your conversation and speaking skills
- Inspire your colleagues and business partners
Throughout “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Carnegie expertly navigates some tricky scenarios. Where most of us criticize and complain, struggling to understand how we’ve offended someone, Carnegie attempts to give tested strategies to manage conflict.
This book was written to be seen as a way of life, rather than a book of tricks.
Dale Carnegie: How To Win Friends And Influence People Summary
About the Author
Dale Carnegie is an American author and businessman. Born and raised in rural Missouri, his early life was spent on a roughshod farm, learning the ins-and-outs of hard labor. In college, he worked on his family’s farm, traveling by horse and cart the 3 miles to school, and often sleeping only 3 hours a night. Frustrated by his situation, he left Missouri to build a career in public speaking.
Carnegie succeeded so well in his chosen career he found people coming to him to ask for public speaking advice. So he formed the Dale Carnegie Institute of Effective Speaking and Human Relations.
His course “Effective Speaking and Influencing Men in Business” was the first of its kind. This course ran for over two decades, attracting more than 15,000 people. After the success of his class, in 1936, he published “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Before he died in 1955, Dale Carnegie sold five million copies around the world.
PART ONE: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
Don’t Criticize, Condemn, or Complain
If you want to win people over, says Carnegie, don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. When somebody seeks to condemn our behavior, our reaction is to defend ourselves. Criticism, he argues, hurts people’s pride, and inspires resentment. Instead of inspiring change, this resentment can make their behavior worse.
He mentions that there’s no harm in wanting to improve others, but asks why not start with yourself? Hold your judgment against the people around you until you can correct your faults.
Most people are quick to criticize. But by controlling this urge, you set yourself apart. It shows good character, and self-control to bite your tongue and show forgiveness. Leading by example, it inspires in others a willingness to be kind and forgiving, too.
Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation
According to Carnegie, if you want to get someone to do something, you must make them want to do it. Of course, you can use force, but this has unwanted consequences. What you want to do, says Carnegie, is an appeal to the other person’s “desire to be important,” or “desire to be great.” He references this desire a lot throughout these principles.
This so-called craving to be great, or necessary, is central to most people’s actions, says Carnegie. It inspires great novelists, leaders of nations, even Carnegie himself. If you can inspire a feeling of greatness, a sense of importance, they will do whatever you ask of them. Carnegie shows that everyone will uniquely achieve this feeling. Your job is to discover it.
To illustrate this power, Carnegie uses the example of Charles Schwab. Schwab got over a million dollars a year to be the first president of the United States Steel Company in 1921. Schwab never criticized any of his workers. He praised his employees whenever he saw an opportunity. Carnegie says this is rare. Managers often jump at the chance to give criticism and say nothing when a job is well done.
Carnegie cautions, don’t mistake flattery for appreciation. Flattery rings hollow. He says that flattery is often only telling another person what they think of themselves.
What Carnegie argues is that appreciation has to be a sincere observation. He argues that this is a daily practice. Notice in the people around you what they bring to the world. Then be enthusiastic as you express your recognition.
Arouse in the other person an eager want
For this principle, Carnegie uses the example of fishing. When he fishes, he says, he baits the hook with worms. He doesn’t do this because he likes worms. He loves strawberries and cream. Too often, Carnegie says, we use the opposite approach. We try to convince people to do what we want by talking about what we want, rather than what they want. But he doesn’t expect the fish to want what he wants, so he baits the hook with something he knows the fish will enjoy. In the same way, you should find out what other people desire and align those desires with your own.
As an example, he uses the story of a Father who finds his son unwilling to go to kindergarten. Instead of scolding his son, the father thinks of the fun his son will have and uses that to encourage the boy to go.
Carnegie tells you to always talk about what the other person wants, not what you want. Live by this principle, and people will be eager to follow you.
PART TWO: Ways to Make People Like You
Become Genuinely Interested in Other People
According to Carnegie, to make connections, you must ask people about themselves. According to the old Roman poet Syrus, “We are interested in others when they are interested in us.” Most of us talk about ourselves to seem appealing. But, according to this principle, we only seem unusual to others when we show interest in them.
There are many examples Carnegie uses to illustrate this principle. One of these is the story of a student of Carnegie’s, Mr. Knaphle, Jr., who was trying to sell fuel to a local chain store. Mr. Knaphle, Jr. had developed a bitterness against chain stores. Carnegie spoke to this student and came up with a plan.
They staged a debate in the class about whether chain stores were harming the country. Carnegie put Mr. Knaphle on the negative team: defending chain stores. As part of his research, Mr. Knaphle asked for a short meeting with the executive of the chain store to hear about their accomplishments. Mr. Knaphle surprised himself by ending up being genuinely enthused by the story of their success. At the end of the meeting, the executive asked him to return in the spring so he could place an order for fuel. Mr. Knaphle, Jr. had never asked for their business during the meeting. Two hours of genuine interest had done more than the ten years before had.
In another story about Carnegie’s students, he talks about Martin. When Martin was ten, he was in the hospital on Thanksgiving Day. He was preparing for painful surgery, with months of recovery to look forward to. His mother, poor and alone, was not able to visit him. Knowing this, he cried into his hospital bed pillow, both for her loneliness and his.
A student nurse heard him crying and came over to wipe his tears and ask him what was wrong. She sympathized with him. She, too, wanted to be home with her family, but she had to work. Bringing two helpings of turkey dinner and ice cream, the nurse sat with him as he ate, and then well into the night. She played games and talked through his fears until well after her shift finished at 4 pm. It was almost midnight before she left after Martin had finally fallen asleep.
Carnegie uses this as an example that showing interest in others can be as beneficial to you as it is to them. Show kindness and develop real friendships by following this principle.
Make a good impression, says Carnegie, by using the power of a real smile. Consider a baby’s smile. Few people can resist smiling back. Smiles are heart-warming and contagious. They tell the other person that you’re excited to see them that seeing them makes you happy.
Use a warm smile to improve your relationships and spark friendships, he says. Carnegie emphasizes that you should do this with friends, colleagues, strangers, and family.
Of course, sometimes you don’t feel like smiling. Carnegie proposes the idea that you smile anyone, which can ‘trick’ your brain into feeling happier. Another approach you can take is trying to cultivate a positive attitude. Often, he says, two people in the same situation can be either happy or sad. The difference is in their disposition.
According to this principle, everyone appreciates a genuine smile. Give them whenever you’re able.
Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language
Carnegie once interviewed Jim Farley about his great success. Farley had grown up poor, received little education, and started his career in a brickyard. He went on to become the Postmaster General of the United States and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Carnegie asked him, “I understand you can call ten thousand people by their first names.” Farley replied, “No. You are wrong. I can call fifty thousand people by their first names.”
Carnegie credits Farley’s skill in remembering names as being a large part of his success. He says that if you can remember and use people’s names, you can give them a great feeling of importance.
But Carnegie warns against mispronouncing or misspelling a person’s name. This can be a terrible insult. Make a special effort, he says, to learn the proper pronunciation and spelling of people’s names. It will make an excellent impression.
Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
At a dinner party, Carnegie recalls, he met an accomplished botanist. Carnegie found him fascinating. Being genuinely interested in his knowledge, Carnegie let the botanist talk for hours without interruption. At the end of the night, when Carnegie left, the botanist turned to the dinner party. He praised Carnegie’s exceptional conversation skills to everyone there.
Carnegie uses this story to illustrate this principle. If you want to be a good conversationalist, let the other person talk. Do most of the listening.
Everyone desires a sympathetic ear, says Carnegie. To everyone, their problems are more pressing than all the other issues in the world. Have good conversations by listening, without interrupting.
Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
If you want to interest people, find out about their benefits, says Carnegie. You can apply this in personal and professional interactions. Before an interview or meeting, research the company. In personal interactions, be observant and ask questions.
In one example, Carnegie talks about Mr. Chalif. Mr. Chalif showed interest in the executive of a company he was asking for sponsorship. He credits his curiosity as the reason his request was granted.
Carnegie asks that you show a keen interest in other people’s interests. This approach makes people warm to you, which makes them more receptive to your requests. Even more, each interaction, you have will be more fulfilling.
Make the other person feel important- and do it sincerely
To apply principle six, you have to remember that everyone has a primal need to feel important. Meet that need, and you’ll be halfway to their hearts, says Carnegie.
In response to the question “what are you trying to get out of them?” Carnegie stresses that this isn’t a way to manipulate. Instead, this is a practice of acknowledging other people’s good traits. This creates a practice of gratitude which is genuine, not contrived.
By accident, the practice of making people feel important can pay off for you as well. As one of his examples, Carnegie uses the gentleman who attended his wife’s family event. The man showed an interest in the Great Aunt’s house and furniture. After an extended tour of the house, they ended in the garage where she showed off her priceless old car. The man admired the car and the effort her late husband put into restoring it. Then the great aunt gave it to him on the spot. He had shown genuine interest in the house which she had spent countless decades caring for. She felt her efforts were significant, and he acknowledged that they were. As thanks, instead of leaving the car to ungrateful relatives, she gave it to the man who recognized her pride.
Carnegie goes on to explain that if someone in your life is essential, it’s essential to show it to them. Make sure you don’t take the people in your life for granted.
Carnegie’s principle argues that everyone desires sincere appreciation. Your job is to give it to them to make them feel important. This both brings people into your life and keeps them there.
PART THREE: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
In this principle, Carnegie tells us that there is no real way to win an argument. Arguing with people won’t change their minds; in fact, it will likely cause resentment. He quotes: “A man convinced against his will agrees still.”
Carnegie offers the opinion of Ben Franklin who says you’ll never gain goodwill by arguing. Instead, what Carnegie wants you to do is welcome any disagreement. Resist the urge to be defensive. Consider their points and try to focus on areas where you agree. Promise to think over your opponent’s points. Then do it. You may be wrong. And if you are wrong about something, admit it, and apologize.
Note: Whenever you find yourself at odds with someone, consider all the angles of the argument. Consider what you have to gain, or lose, by arguing. Look at what the facts are. Consider whether your reaction solves a problem, or relieves your stress. Give thought to where your opponent is coming from.
Thank people who disagree with you, says Carnegie. They have the same interests you do and are trying to help you. If you take this approach, you may turn opponents into friends.
Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
If you want to make enemies, point out someone is wrong. You can do this with your body language as much as you can with words. With a look or with the tone of your voice, you can wound people’s pride. Carnegie cautions: especially don’t start by saying, “I’m going to prove…” or “I’ll teach you a thing or two about…” Implying you’re smarter than whoever you’re talking to wins you no favors. It issues a challenge, which makes people feel they need to defend themselves. There’s no resolution, only hard feelings.
If someone states a fact you think is wrong, try approaching it diplomatically. You can start by admitting you may be wrong. Carnegie says there’s magic in this approach.
By accepting you may be wrong, you inspire everyone involved to be considerate. You open the floor for yourself or someone else to learn something new, and you avoid an argument.
If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically
This next principle detailed by Carnegie, asks you to recognize and accept when you’re wrong. In doing so, you remove the need for the other person to admonish you.
Carnegie tells the story of a worker whose boss was always criticizing his work. The worker anticipated this criticism and admitted his mistakes outright instead. Instead of being told off, he got sympathy and forgiveness from the manager.
It’s difficult, says Carnegie, not to forgive a man who acknowledges his shortcomings. You will inevitably make mistakes. Acknowledge them as soon as possible. Apologize. This will inspire people to respect you and calms potential conflicts.
Begin in a friendly way
This principle considers people’s defensive mechanisms. If you go in looking for a fight, you’ll find it. Although you may want to vent your anger, it’s not in your best interests. You want to come off kindly, so take a friendlier tone, says Carnegie.
It’s important to show other people you’re not there to demoralize them. Naturally, you have to bring up problems from time to time. There are ways to do so, which keeps everyone friendly.
Using an old fable, Carnegie learned as a boy to illustrate: the sun and wind were fighting over who was stronger. The wind pointed out an older man on the ground. “I bet I can get the old man’s coat off,” it said. It blustered and blew, but the older man wrapped his coat tighter. Eventually, the wind gave up. The sun, seeing this, came out and smiled down on the older man. The man lifted his head, wiped his brow, and took off his coat, smiling back at the sun. The sun told the wind: friendliness and gentleness is always stronger than fury and force.
Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately
When up against an opponent, says Carnegie, it’s essential to find, as fast as possible, points which you agree on. If you can get your opponent saying ‘yes, yes,’ you can usually get them to agree with you after that. Carnegie argues that this takes advantage of psychological techniques.
Get your opponents saying “yes, yes,” and when it comes to answering the critical question “yes” will seem like a natural answer.
For instance, if you’re dealing with a customer, try to lead them through a ‘yes, yes’ dialogue. Like Joseph Allison, says Carnegie. Mr. Allison worked for Westinghouse Electric Company. He took a call from a customer who wanted to return some motors which were running too hot, as he said.
Mr. Allison knew the engines weren’t running any more heated than usual. But rather than argue, he decided to take the ‘yes, yes’ approach. He took the customer down a path of ‘yes’ that acknowledged the customer’s concerns.
In the end, the customer agreed that the motors weren’t running any hotter than allowed. He kept the engines and stayed on as a customer.
To help you put this approach into action, Carnegie wants you to remember always to try to see things from the other person’s point of view. This way, you will always find the best outcome for everyone.
Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
Remember the earlier principle of being a good conversationalist. This principle reminds you to listen more than you talk.
In the story of one sales representative, listening did more than he thought possible. Walking into a sales meeting, he found he had laryngitis and couldn’t talk. He tried for a while to give his presentation, but couldn’t get out more than a squeak. He ended up writing on a piece of paper: Gentlemen, I cannot speak. The president of the company stood up and started talking about the textiles as if he were selling them. They all started talking amongst themselves. There was the salesman, saying nothing, yet at the end of the meeting, he made the most massive sale of his career.
Often, says Carnegie, it’s the best policy to allow others to speak their ideas until they’re done. Try not to interrupt, and once they’re done, they will be in a better position to listen. This is especially true when dealing with complaints. Often, if you let them, people will work through their grievances with themselves, as long as they have a kind ear.
Listen to influential people, colleagues, family, friends, and strangers alike, says Carnegie. This will improve your social standing and help manage conflict.
Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
Ideas you come up with yourself hold more weight than those given to you by others, says Carnegie. With this in mind, give credit for purposes to others. As often as you can, allow others to think an idea is theirs.
This is the story of one way Eugene Wesson applied this principle. Wesson was a sketch artist trying to sell his art to a buyer for textiles and stylists. For years, he had worked to sell his sketches. But the buyer would always turn him away. After studying up on human behavior, he came up with a plan. He took a bundle of unfinished sketches to the buyer. Then he asked if they could give some input into how he should finish the drawings. The buyer came back with some suggestions, and Wesson sold every one of his sketches to them. The buyer felt they were a part of the design process, so they took ownership of the ideas.
Carnegie argues that this is proof that consulting people on their thoughts is a way to success. Suggest ideas to people by asking questions then allow them to feel the idea is theirs. This, he says, will enable you to lead from out of sight.
Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view
As Carnegie tells it, everyone’s wrong sometimes, but people rarely think they are. Anyone can condemn someone wrong. But it shows exceptional character to try to understand them.
Carnegie suggests you consider another’s point of view before asking anything from them. Framing your request according to this will make things much more likely to go your way.
Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires
Carnegie proposes a ‘magic phrase’ with this principle.
“I don’t blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you, I would undoubtedly feel just as you do.”
Carnegie credits this phrase as being able to dispel tension and create goodwill.
The trick, he says, is that this phrase can always be sincere, as it’s still right. Everybody is precise as they are due to their temperament and environment. If you were in precisely the same body, mind, and environment as any other person, you’d be exactly as they are. Keep this in mind next time you meet someone in a bad mood.
Carnegie has used this principle himself in dealing with complaints from people, with significant effect. He thinks you should do this, too.
Appeal to the nobler motives
As observed by J. Pierpont Morgan: A person usually has two reasons for doing a thing. One reason that sounds good and the real one. Carnegie agrees with this. He tells you to appeal to the noblest causes people to have.
Appealing to the nobler motives in the people around you means letting them know that you think they’re good people who say well. They’ll usually want to behave in a way which confirms your good impression of them. Assume they intend to do the right thing, most people do.
Dramatize your ideas
To gain attention, Carnegie recommends dramatizing your ideas. Instead of merely stating your opinions, or what you want, make them stand out. For instance, most men get down on one knee to propose. It’s not enough to ask the question, dramatizing the proposal lends weight to it.
Carnegie uses the example of a newspaper which was the target of gossip. People were complaining that the paper had too many ads and not enough content. So they published a book called ‘One Day.’ The 307-page book contained one day’s worth of content from the paper. They dramatized their point, and the gossip stopped.
A more practical example from Ms. Wolf details how she set a meeting with her manager. She was having trouble getting in to see him, so she dropped a letter into his in-tray which read:
“Ms. Wolf – I will be able to see you on _____ at _____ A.M./P.M. I will give you ____ minutes of my time.”
Her boss returned the completed note in an envelope and ended up chatting with her for an hour about her concerns.
Aim to find an effective way to dramatize your ideas if you want people to take notice.
Throwdown a challenge
When you want to inspire people to action, says Carnegie, offer up a challenge. Take Schwab from earlier, who had a mill manager struggling to fill their quotas. The manager was at a loss, and he’d tried everything he could think of. Schwab was visiting the mill, trying to fix this problem. He had a think and asked the day shift how much heats they had made. The day shift said six. So Schwab wrote a big “6” in chalk on the floor. When the night shift came in, they saw the chalk mark and asked what it was for. When the day shift came to work the next morning, there was a “7” down on the ground. The day shift couldn’t have that, so the next night there was a “10” scrawled on the ground. Creating healthy competition turned the mill into the highest producer of the company.
In Schwab’s own words, stimulating this competition encourages a ‘desire to excel.’
Carnegie points out that the one factor which motivates people the most in work is the work itself.
As long as the work is stimulating, people want to do a good job. So aim to create a stimulating environment.
The desire to excel inspires all sorts of competition. And competition gives a feeling of importance.
PART FOUR: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
Begin with praise and honest appreciation
In positions of leadership, you will come across a time when you must find fault. If it is unavoidable, make sure you take this approach, says Carnegie. Complement the person before you fault them. Show appreciation for an aspect of their work. It will soften the blow of your criticism, and make them more receptive to it.
Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly
Another of Carnegie’s principles in bringing up faults is to find a round-about way to do it.
Take a clear, obvious example like Carl Langford, the mayor of Orlando, Florida. He had told his staff time and time again that he had an open-door policy. But his staff were always turning people away. So he took off the door to his office. His staff got the message, and he didn’t have to scold anyone.
Calling attention to faults in this way says Carnegie, avoids hurt feelings. It also helps people save face, which is a great way to preserve relationships.
Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person
Carnegie’s next principle is another technique to soften the blow of criticism. Talk about similar mistakes you made in the past before pointing out theirs. It’s hard for a person to feel ashamed when faced with a humble admission of the same error.
For instance, an engineer had to tell his secretary that she had been making several spelling errors recently. So first, he admitted to his secretary he had to keep a book by his table with correct spellings of words. By doing this, he both admitted to his own faults and gave her a potential solution. Whether the secretary took his method on board, he doesn’t know. But Carnegie claims the secretary’s spelling improved after that meeting.
Ask questions instead of giving direct orders
To be an effective leader, you need to ask questions of your subordinates, says Carnegie. Nobody likes receiving orders; they like to feel as though they have autonomy. By asking questions, your employees can help come up with creative solutions. They’ll also be more proactive when putting the plan into action. And by refusing to give orders, you allow your staff to learn from their own mistakes.
Carnegie argues that this technique of leadership encourages cooperation while discouraging rebellion. And by giving people this freedom, they gain that crucial sense of importance.
Let the other person save face
To illustrate this principle, Carnegie uses the story of the General Electric Company. One of their eminent engineers, Charles Steinmetz, was head of the calculating department. His management was poor, yet the company needed his expertise. They didn’t want to offend him and risk him leaving, so they gave him a new title. He became “Consulting Engineer of the General Electric Company,” a completely new title. He felt honored and important, and the company was free to hire a new head of calculating.
In this tactical move, says Carnegie, is a key outcome: allowing people to save face. Too often, we disregard people’s emotions when trying to get our way. Instead, take a few moments’ consideration to ensure people’s feelings aren’t hurt. It’s an easy change that is appreciated by everyone around you.
Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
Carnegie is quick to point out that animal trainers often use reward over punishment. Following this principle is much the same. Encourage good behavior and consistent improvement from the people around you. Be liberal with your praise and the people around you will blossom, says Carnegie. Focussing on even the smallest improvement will put a spring in their step.
Carnegie stresses that this praise shouldn’t be general, non-specific words of affirmation. They should be specific and enthusiastic. He goes on to remind you that the principles in this book aren’t tricks; they’re ways of living. If you want to inspire change in people, notice and encourage their abilities. Abilities flourish with encouragement and tend to wither under criticism.
Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to
In dealing with other people’s performance, try to make it clear what standard you hold them to. Carnegie makes clear with this principle that you can inspire improvement in others by setting a high standard for them. Make it clear that you think they are capable of this standard, and they will rise to it.
Carnegie asks you to take this approach when dealing with someone in your life who isn’t meeting expectations. For instance, a teacher may tell a distractible boy that he has expert leadership skills, so she depends on him to set a good example.
Let people know you think highly of them and watch them improve to meet your standards.
Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct
In using encouragement to inspire improvement, Carnegie argues we should also try to make any fault easy to correct. When you tell someone, they’re bad at a task, and they tend not to improve. You’ve weakened their confidence and removed the incentive to get better. But if you tell them they have a knack for it or a certain aspect of it, then you’ve shown how close they are to improve.
Carnegie writes that if people get the message that it’s easy to improve, they’re much more likely to improve.
Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest
In this final principle, Carnegie proposes that you consider finding ways to make other people happy about doing what you suggest. By doing this, you give incentives for people to follow you. Napoleon did this when he created the Legion of Honor and gave out 15,000 crosses to his soldiers. People have done this with children by offering rewards for doing chores. Diplomats flatter their superiors when they need to make decisions for them. And Carnegie says it will work when you try it, too.
He says that an effective leader should follow a few guidelines when changing attitudes or behavior:
- Be sincere.
- Know what you want the other person to do.
- Be empathetic.
- Consider how the other person benefits.
- Match those benefits with their desires.
- Try your best to phrase your request so that it’s clear what the other person will gain from doing what you ask.
Carnegie finishes by saying that it’s unrealistic to expect every interaction to go our way. But if you’re in the business of changing attitudes, impacting behavior, and making friends, using these techniques will improve your chances of being an effective leader. And any improvement benefits you.
How To Win Friends And Influence People Summary: My personal takeaway
I love this book so much, and I try to read it or listen to the audiobook once a year.
There isn’t much in How To Win Friends and Influence People that you don’t already know, but I’m sure there’s a lot in the book that you don’t do as much as you should.