How to Win Friends & Influence People

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a classic self-help book about social skills.

Dale Carnegie was actually born Dale Carnagey, but exploited steel magnate Andrew Carnegie’s fame by adjusting his own name. He built his own flourishing business selling seminars and books about dealing with people. This book is the centerpiece of his work. It’s a collection of anecdotes and the more-than-occasional bragging about the efficacy of his methods.

The book may seem dated sometimes (giving a prospective customer a list of existing customers and telling him to call them would be extremely frowned upon nowadays), but people haven’t changed. They haven’t really changed since antiquity, that’s why we still gainfully read the great philosophers!

What follows are a few hints from the book I consider central and important:

Don’t criticize or attack people.

People are not logical beings, like Vulcans. People are emotional. As soon as you criticize or attack in any way they will act in an antagonistic manner. Nothing good will come out of it.

There is only one way to make people do something: they must want to do it. Not necessarily out of rational thought, weighing all the pros and cons. Maybe they want to do you a favor because they like you. Maybe they want to give you their wallet because your gun looks pretty real. But in the end they must want to, even if only reluctantly.

What do people want? All the usual basic needs of life (food, clothing, shelter), some material things (money), most if not all of them usually satisfied to an acceptable degree. But one desire is usually not fulfilled: the wish to be important. Everybody wants to feel important.

Show your sincere appreciation, but don’t flatter.

It’s important to note the word “sincere”. Blunt flattery will not do. It’s dishonest and that won’t be lost on the other person. Find something you actually appreciate or admire in the other person. Usually there is something to be found, and honest appreciation does not result in the awkwardness of sheer flattery. Much too seldom do we praise others. There doesn’t need to be a big occasion. Tell the waiter that the steak is really good. Tell your kids you’re proud of their little league performance. Thank your children’s teacher for how she handled the situation last Friday. But be sincere!

Don’t just praise abstractly. Find concrete examples what someone did right and well and praise them for that.

Don’t always talk about what you want. Try and see the world through the eyes of the other person and find out what he wants. Then show them how you can help them achieve their goals while simultaneously achieving yours.

Trying to get others interested in yourself is difficult at best. Be interested in them and what they have to say! Again, don’t fake your interest, open your mind and be interested in them.

The first impression when meeting someone is important. Smile. You can condition yourself to happiness by smiling even when noone’s around. Or hum a song. Act as if you were already happy. The act of smiling seems to follow the feeling of happiness. In truth, they are more in lockstep. It’s easier to control the act than the feeling.

People love to hear their name. It’s a very powerful word to them, and using it is a form of compliment.

Make an effort to remember people’s names and use the names in conversation.

Especially if the name is uncommon or difficult to pronounce, many people will disregard that name or mispronounce it. You stand out by paying attention to the name and making the effort of learning it.

Let people talk. Listen. Don’t just wait for your turn.

You’re making people uncomfortable being a know-it-all who is contradicting others liberally. You don’t have to correct every mistake, let people save face. Most of the time the mistake is inconsequential, anyway.

If you try to change someone’s mind, don’t tell outright that you’re going to prove a point. Be subtle. Instead of judging an opinion, try to understand what the opinion means to the other person. That means especially that “nitpicking” is never productive, only antagonistic. Show respect for their opinion.

Saying “you’re wrong” does not show respect for the other person and his opinion.

Admit your own mistakes quickly and liberally.

When you need to complain about something start off very friendly and courteously.

In conversations don’t begin with differences, emphasize what you have in common. As soon as you drop a “no” or other direct refutation of the other’s opinion he will feel that he has to defend it. Ask question where you know the answer will be “yes”.

Let the other person talk more than you’re talking. Don’t brag with your achievements, ask for his successes.

Include the other person in drafting an agreement, a contract or a document. Give him the feeling that an idea originated with him.

There are usually two reasons for doing something: a respectable one that sounds good, and the real one. Appeal to the good-sounding one.

When you need to criticize someone, find something to praise them for and start with that. Add your criticism to that using “and”, not “but”.

When possible, don’t call people out on their mistakes. Find a way to make them see their mistake and save face.

Before you talk about other people’s mistakes, admit your own.

Ascribe an unblemished reputation to others, they will feel the need to live up to it.