How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie - A Summary

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If you want to develop your social skills, learn how to deal with people, be a good friend, and be a good leader and team player, you cannot overlook this book. It was first published in 1936. The book is filled with timeless wisdom and tips on developing social skills and understanding people from different areas of our lives. The book is filled with many key ideas and anecdotes from history, and here's an attempt to summarize the key concepts from the book. It's a long post, and if you find it tiresome, reading just the principles in the bold text would be equally effective.

PART ONE: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

"If You Want to Gather Honey, Don't Kick Over the Beehive"

  1. B.F. Skinner, a world-renowned psychologist, proved through his experiments that an animal rewarded for good behavior would learn much more rapidly than an animal punished for bad behavior. Later studies have shown that it's the same for humans. By criticizing, we do not make lasting changes and often incur resentment.
  2. It's important to understand that we all make mistakes, and if we want someone to change, regulate, or improve, the process must begin with ourselves.
  3. Anybody can criticize, condemn and complain—and most people do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.
  4. Instead of condemning people, let's try to understand why they do what they do. It's far more effective than criticism; it breeds tolerance and kindness.

Principle 1: Don't Criticize, Condemn, or Complain.

The Big Secret of Dealing with People

  1. Appreciation and recognition are necessary for all humans to make them enthusiastic about what they do. This could be easily misconstrued as flattery, and that's not what the book proposes. The difference between appreciation and flattery — one is sincere, the other one is insincere; one comes from the heart, the other comes from the teeth; one is unselfish, the other is selfish; one is universally admired, the other is universally condemned.
  2. Appreciation comes from the fact that everybody knows something we don't, and we should recognize their efforts to do something. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Every man I meet is superior in some way. In that, I learn of him."

Principle 2: Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation.

"He Who Can Do This Has the Whole World with Him. He Who Cannot Walks a Lonely Way."

  1. There is only one way to get people to do anything: by making them want to do it. And that is done by giving them what they want. What do people want? We all want health, food, sleep, clothing, shelter, etc. John Dewey, the famous American Philosopher, said that the most profound urge in human nature is rarely gratified, which is the desire to be important.
  2. We might be in a position in our lives to persuade someone to do something. The first question we must ask ourselves is, "How can I make this person want to do it?"
  3. One of the primary ways of making someone want to do something is to see things from their perspective. Here is one of the best bits of advice ever given about the fine art of human relationships. Henry Ford said, "If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own."
  4. "If out of reading this book you get just one thing—an increased tendency to always think in terms of other people's point of view and see things from their angle—if you get that one thing out of this book, it may easily prove to be one of the building blocks of your career. Looking at the other person's point of view and arousing in him an eager want for something is not to be construed as manipulating that person so that he will do something only for your benefit and his detriment. Each party should gain from the negotiation." — Excerpt from the book.

Principle 3: Arouse in the other person an eager want.

PART TWO: Six Ways to Make People Like You

Do This, and You'll be Welcome Anywhere

  1. If you want to be interesting, be interested in other people.
  2. You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.
  3. As with every other principle of human relations, this show of interest must be sincere and pay off both the person showing interest and the person receiving interest. It's a two-way street.

Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people.

A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression

  1. A smile goes a long way.
  2. "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be" — Abraham Lincoln.
  3. People who learn to smile through difficulties are hard to defeat.

Principle 2: Smile.

If You Don't Do This, You Are Headed for Trouble

  1. Call people by their names. Use it often.
  2. It shows that you care and pay attention to them.
  3. It calls them out and makes them feel stand apart.

Principle 3: Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

An Easy Way to Become a Good Conversationalist

  1. Even the most violent critic will be subdued if there's a listener who is patient enough to listen and understand their points.
  2. Sometimes, people don't need advice, and they need a sympathetic friend to listen so that they can unburden themselves.
  3. If you want people to hate you and resent you, keep talking about yourself, and interrupt people when they are talking about themselves.
  4. If you want to be a conversationalist, be an attentive listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves and be genuinely curious to learn about them.

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

How to Interest People

  1. The royal road to a person's heart is to talk about the things they treasure the most.

Principle 5: Talk in terms of other person's interests.

How to Make People Like You Instantly

  1. Make the other person feel important without expecting anything in return. Appreciate someone without any transactional expectations.
  2. "What was I trying to get out of him!!! What was I trying to get out of him!!!
    If we are so contemptibly selfish that we can't radiate a little happiness and pass on a bit of honest appreciation without trying to get something out of the other person in return—if our souls are no bigger than sour crab apples, we shall meet with the failure we so richly deserve." — Excerpt from the book.

Principle 6: Make the other person feel important — and do it sincerely.

PART THREE: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

You Can't Win an Argument

  1. The best way to win an argument is to avoid it. Avoid as you'd avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes.
  2. Nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each contestant more firmly convinced that they were right.
  3. You can't win an argument — if you win or lose it, you lose it. Why? When you win an argument, you have emphatically proved that the other person is wrong. You feel satisfied, you feel the victory in your veins, and your confidence grows. What about the other person? You have shot them down, proved that their statements are full of faults, hurt their pride, and made them feel inferior. This is where resentment starts, and you lose the other person's goodwill.
  4. "Buddha said: "Hatred is never ended by hatred but by love," A misunderstanding is never ended by an argument but by tact, diplomacy, conciliation, and a sympathetic desire to see the other person's viewpoint. Welcome the disagreement. Remember the slogan, "When two partners always agree, one of them is not necessary." If there is some point you haven't thought about, be thankful if it is brought to your attention. Perhaps this disagreement is your opportunity to be corrected before you make a serious mistake." — Excerpt from the book.

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

A Sure Way of Making Enemies — and How to Avoid It

  1. If a person makes a statement that you think is wrong—yes, even that you know is wrong—isn't it better to begin by saying: "Well, now, look. I thought otherwise, but I may be wrong. I frequently am. And if I am wrong, I want to be put right. Let's examine the facts." Use a little diplomacy.
  2. Telling people that they are wrong hurts their dignity and pride. When we are wrong, we may admit it to ourselves. Sometimes, we may admit it to others and take pride in our frankness and broad-mindedness. But it's impossible when someone tries to ram the same thing down our throats.

Principle 2: Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're Wrong."

If You're Wrong, Admit it.

  1. It is much better to admit our mistakes by ourselves before someone points them out.
  2. There is a degree of satisfaction in having the courage to admit one's errors.
  3. "By fighting, you never get enough. By yielding, you always get more than expected."

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

A Drop of Honey

  1. If we go into a conversation or an argument in a hostile manner, we are not giving the other person a chance to make their point. We are entering with prejudice instead of an attempt to understand and resolve differences.
  2. In most situations, beginning in a friendly way sets the right tone for the conversation, telling the other person you are willing to work towards a resolution.

Principle 4: Begin in a friendly way.

The Secret of Socrates

  1. While talking with people, start with the things you both agree upon rather than something you differ upon. Get the other person to say "yes, yes" at the beginning. Delay a "No" response as much as possible. It reinforces that the differences are minor, conveys friendliness, and takes the conversation in an affirmative direction.

Principle 5: Get the other person saying "yes, yes" immediately.

The Safety Valve in Handling Complaints

  1. Let the other person talk themselves out. They know what they are talking about, and let them finish. You might be tempted to interrupt, but let them do a great deal of talking. Try to understand their entire story before concluding.

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

How to Get Cooperation

  1. Haven't you had more faith in the ideas you figured out by yourself rather than in those handed to you by someone else? If so, isn't it a bad practice to ram your opinions down others' throats? Isn't it wiser to make suggestions and let others conclude?
  2. Credit is not important; results are.
  3. "The reason why rivers and seas receive the homage of a hundred mountain streams is that they keep below them. Thus they are able to reign over all the mountain streams. So the sage, wishing to be above men, putteth himself below them; wishing to be before them, he putteth himself behind them. Thus, though his place be above men, they do not feel his weight; though his place be before them, they do not count it an injury." — Lao-tse, Chinese Philosopher.

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

A Formula That Will Work Wonders for You

  1. Other people might be wrong, but don't condemn them. Try to understand them. There is a reason why the other person thinks the way they do. Ferret out that reason — and you have a key to their actions and personality.
  2. "Stop a minute," says Kenneth M. Goode in his book How to Turn People Into Gold, "stop a minute to contrast your keen interest in your affairs with your mild concern about anything else. Realize then that everybody else in the world feels exactly the same way! Then, along with Lincoln and Roosevelt, you will have grasped the only solid foundation for interpersonal relationships; namely, that success in dealing with people depends on a sympathetic grasp of the other person's viewpoint." — Excerpt from the book.

Principle 8: Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.

What Everybody Wants

  1. During a conflict, if you apologize and sympathize with the other person's point of view, they will most likely begin to apologize and sympathize with your point of view. It is the road to understanding.

Principle 9: Be sympathetic with other person's ideas or desires.

An Appeal That Everybody Likes

  1. "The fact is that all people you meet have high regard for themselves and like to be fine and unselfish in their own estimation," J. Pierpont Morgan observed, in one of his analytical interludes, "that a person usually has two reasons for doing a thing: one that sounds good and a real one. The person himself will think of the real reason. You don't need to emphasize that. But all of us, being idealists at heart, like to think of motives that sound good. So, in order to change people, appeal to the nobler motives."

Principle 10: Appeal to the nobler motives.

The Movies Do It. Advertisers Do It. Why Don't You Do It?

  1. Though truth stands out by itself, sometimes it has to be dramatized. We are responsible for making our story more vivid, engaging, and dramatic without altering the essence of the story.

Principle 11: Dramatize your ideas.

When Nothing Else Works, Try This

  1. One of the best ways to get things done is to stimulate competition, not in a greedy, money-getting way, but in the desire to excel.
  2. Successful people like the game more than the result and love to keep playing. The competition gives a chance for someone to prove their worth, to fulfill the desire to excel, the desire to be important.

Principle 12: Throw down a challenge.

PART FOUR: Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

If You Must Find Fault, This Is The Way to Begin

  1. If you have to criticize someone, the best way to begin is to appreciate and truly understand their accomplishments. It tells you that everybody is prone to mistakes and reminds you of previous achievements. The focus should be on rectifying the mistake, not the mistake itself.

Principle 1: Begin with praise and honest appreciation.

How to Criticize — and Not Be Hated For It

  1. Following the previous point, many people begin their criticism with a sincere phrase followed by the word "but" and end with a critical statement. For example, "We are proud of you for doing this, but it would be great if you could improve on the other thing."
  2. The receiver might begin to be encouraged until they hear the word "but." The word nullifies the sincerity of the praise, and to them, it seems like a fake lead-in to the actual criticism. This could be solved by replacing "but" with "and," like "We are proud of you for doing this, and it would be great if you could improve on the other thing."
  3. It changes the whole meaning and shows that we appreciate their accomplishments and expect improvements in something else.

Principle 2: Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.

Talk About Your Own Mistakes First

  1. "It isn't nearly so difficult to listen to a recital of your faults if the person criticizing begins by humbly admitting that he, too, is far from impeccable."

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

No One Likes to Take Orders

  1. Instead of saying, "Don't do this," or "Don't do that," practice saying, "You might consider this," or "Do you think that would work?".

Principle 4: Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.

Let the Other Person Save Face

  1. Even if we are right and the other person is wrong, we only destroy ego by causing someone to lose face, which is counter-productive.
  2. "The legendary French aviation pioneer and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote: "I have no right to say or do anything that diminishes a man in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him but what he thinks of himself. Hurting a man in his dignity is a crime." — Excerpt from the book.

Principle 5: Let the other person save face.

How to Spur People On to Success

  1. We should praise even the slightest improvement, inspiring the other person to keep improving.
  2. "Praise is like sunlight to the warm human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it. And yet, while most of us are only too ready to apply to others the cold wind of criticism, we are somehow reluctant to give our fellow the warm sunshine of praise." — Psychologist Jess Lair.

Principle 6: Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be "hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise."

Give a Dog a Good Name

  1. Hold someone accountable for their ability. Show them you like their skill. Tell them how proud you are of them. This will give them a fine reputation to live up to.  

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

Make the Fault Seem Easy to Correct

  1. If you tell someone they are stupid or dumb to do something; they might believe you and give up. Instead, if you encourage them that it could be easily corrected, they will try and improve.

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

Make People Glad to Do What You Want

  1. Give people responsibility, but try to understand their likes and dislikes and what they want.
  2. Be sincere. Don't promise anything that you can't deliver.
  3. Consider the benefits the person will receive by doing what you suggest. Match those benefits with the other person's wants.

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

Final Thoughts

This book is one of the most influential books I've read. Though it is that, I found myself contradicting some points, making me think. The tricky part is that many points could be used with ill-intent and could be seen as people-pleasing or false flattery or a bag of tricks if you will. But the common theme that the author repeats throughout the book: is, "None of this will be fruitful if it's not sincere and with good intent. I'm not advertising a bag of tricks, but I'm talking about a new way of life." Thanks for reading. Peace out!

Vivek Arvind

Vivek Arvind

Santa Clara, CA