Life gets busy. Has How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie been sitting on your reading list? Instead, learn the key insights now.
This is an unofficial summary and analysis.
About Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie was active in debating clubs while at State Teacher’s College in Warrensburg. After graduating, he worked as a sales agent in Nebraska and an actor in New York City, but his genuine passion was for public speaking. He started teaching public speaking at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The influence of these talks meant he ended up lecturing to packed rooms.
Based on this success, Carnegie decided to create his own public speaking school. Public speaking courses based on his teaching methods are still influential today. Warren Buffett has a diploma from Dale Carnegie’s public speaking course hanging in his office. Buffett is only one in a long list of successful people who give the author partial credit for their success.
Free Audiobook Summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends and Influence People was published in 1936 and became an instant bestseller. Dale Carnegie was already a famous public speaking coach and author of five other books. Out of his 11 books, this one has proven to be his most popular. It sold over five million copies throughout the author’s lifetime and over ten million more since then.
Carnegie researched the lives of greats from Julius Caesar to Thomas Edison. He also interviewed influential individuals like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Clark Gable. Based on these findings, he created a book that has become one of the best-selling books of all time. The book is based on a 14-week course he gave on human relations and public speaking.
StoryShot #1: Learn to Handle People
If you master these three techniques, you can handle most people:
- “If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive” – It is basic human nature to reject criticism and justify your actions. But you need to become less defensive if you want to be successful.
- “The big secret of dealing with people” – It is challenging to make people feel important. If you can do it, you will hold the key to dealing with people. Every person knows something you don’t. So, seek to learn that thing in every interaction. You will make the other person feel important if you do this.
- “He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot, walks a lonely way” – When you go fishing, you don’t bait the hook with the strawberries you’d like to snack on. You use what the fish prefer: worms. Yet, humans barge into interactions talking about what they want. This is a complete waste of time and effort. Instead, you should always ask yourself what the other person wants. Present your reasoning from their perspective.
StoryShot #2: Show People You Are Interested in Them
The first way you can make people like you is by showing interest in them. One simple way to do this is to record and remember people’s birthdays. People like to be remembered. People also like to be admired and sought after for help. So, if you need something from someone, tell them they are the only person who can help you. When you ask, request exactly what you need from them. Finally, make it as easy as possible for them to do it.
Carnegie tells several stories about people who genuinely took an interest in the other person. Often, this interest wasn’t remotely related to what they needed from them. This approach often results in the person giving you what you need. If you can effectively show genuine interest, you will beat all the sales techniques in the world.
StoryShot #3: Use Your Smile to Make a Good First Impression
A smile shows the other person that you like them and you are glad to see them. That said, an insincere smile won’t do you any good. So, preface your smile by being thankful for what you have. Happiness results from our inward condition, not our outward circumstances. We can control our inward state as thoughts. Try to think positively about other people to make your smiles more genuine.
StoryShot #4: Learn People’s First Names and Use Them
Jim Farley was raised by a single mother around the turn of the 19th century. He started work as a bricklayer when he was ten years old and got little education. But Farley ended up as the Postmaster General of the United States, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and the man responsible for putting Roosevelt into the White House.
Farley’s secret was that he could call 50,000 people by their first names. Each time he met someone, he would ask about the person’s name, family size, profession, and political leanings. This allowed him to create a mental picture. Remember and use a person’s name and they will like you.
StoryShot #5: Encourage People to Talk About Themselves
Find what interests the other person. Encourage them to talk about themselves and make sure you don’t interrupt. Most people approach a conversation by trying to find a commonality. Sometimes, you will struggle to find this shared interest. So, it is safer to focus on the other person’s greatest interest and pay active and close attention. If you do this, they will find you to be an excellent conversationalist.
Effective conversationalists can also diffuse heated conversations. All you have to do is listen to the other person until they have told their entire story and are satisfied they have expressed themselves. By that time, you should be able to address the problem from their viewpoint. Adopting their perspective will allow you to resolve the problem at hand.
StoryShot #6: Learn About Other People’s Interests
When Teddy Roosevelt was scheduled to meet someone the next day, he would stay up late to read about a subject that the person was interested in. Spend your energy on finding the other person’s passion. This does not mean you should begin the conversation with that subject. You will be more effective if you let the subject emerge naturally.
StoryShot #7: Make People Feel Important and Needed
Whenever you meet someone, ask yourself, “What is there about them that I can honestly admire?” As we have already established, everyone wants approval, recognition, and a feeling of importance. It doesn’t take much for you to deliver all those things.
Practice doing this with everyone you meet, from post office clerks to business associates. Make it a habit and, together with the other practices we have learned about, it will improve your results and relationships.
StoryShot #8: Arguments Aren’t Worth Your Time
Even if you shoot down your opponent with your incredible wit and knowledge, they will still leave the conversation resenting you. So, you lose either way. It’s simply not worth your time to argue.
We should remember the impact of making people feel important. Some people argue because they want to feel important. To counteract this, you can acknowledge their importance instead of arguing. Doing this allows their ego room to breathe, and you may then find they become sympathetic to your cause.
StoryShot #9: How to Avoid Making Enemies
You should never waste time trying to prove someone wrong. We are all influenced by our own cognitive biases. Carnegie suggests this script when you believe another person is at fault:
“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.”
If you notice you are wrong, you must admit your fault. Admit it quickly, openly, and with enthusiasm. When you condemn yourself, the other party’s only option to nourish their own self-esteem is to defend you. Even when the other party’s interests are clearly contrary to your own, it is a powerful weapon to admit your faults.
A newspaper reader once wrote in to criticize one of Elbert Hubbard’s articles. Here is the famous American writer’s response: “Come to think it over, I don’t think I completely agree with it myself. Not everything I wrote yesterday appeals to me today. I am glad to learn what you think about the subject. The next time you are in the neighborhood you must visit us, and we’ll get this subject threshed out for all time. So here is a handclasp over the miles, and I am, Yours Sincerely…”
StoryShot #10: Respond to Anger with Friendliness
If we respond to anger with anger, we will never convince the other party. You should instead respond to anger with friendliness, sympathy, and appreciation. This will turn an angry situation into a productive one. Former US pPresident, Woodrow Wilson, put it this way:
“If you come at me with your fists doubled, I think I can promise you that mine will double as fast as yours; but if you come to me and say, ‘Let us sit down and take counsel together, and, if we differ from one another, understand why it is that we differ from one another, just what the points at issue are,’ we will presently find we are not so far apart after all, that the points on which we differ are few and the points on which we agree are many, and that if we only have the patience and the candor and the desire to get together, we will get together.” – Woodrow Wilson
StoryShot #11: Emphasize the Points You and Another Person Agree On
Never begin a conversation by immediately addressing how your opinion differs from the other person. Instead, start by emphasizing the points on which you agree. Keep reminding all parties involved that while you might differ in the preferred method, you are all striving for the same purpose. A skilled influencer can identify that common purpose.
The result is that the other party gives permission for you to offer your opinions. A person’s “pride of personality” demands they remain consistent with themselves. Getting someone to change their response is hard, so it is best to get things on track before you begin. Get the other person saying, “Yes,” immediately.
StoryShot #12: Stop Talking About Your Accomplishments
When someone has a complaint, let them talk themselves out. When you go for an interview, don’t talk about yourself. Ask the interviewer about their early years and get them talking about themselves. The famous French moralist, La Rochefoucauld, once said, “If you want enemies, excel your friends; but if you want friends, let your friends excel you.” Talking about your accomplishments doesn’t win you any friends. Let the other person do most of the talking.
There should also be no need for you to claim credit for an idea. Let the other party claim the idea as their own, and you will have a much easier time. They will be more likely to cooperate. When you need something, don’t talk about what you need. Present the other person with the information and ask them if they can help.
StoryShot #13: Stop Judging Others
There is always a reason that a person thinks and acts the way they do. Seek that reason instead of judging. You will then have the key to their actions and even their personality.
Carnegie asks that if you take away nothing else from this book, you start a practice of honestly trying to understand other people’s points of view. Understand why they have an opinion rather than just what that opinion is.
You would have the same perspective as the other person in the conversation if you shared their temperament, environment, and experiences. While we might argue the role of nature versus nurture, it is important to acknowledge that the other person’s emotions and opinions are valid. Say that you understand where they are coming from.
J.P. Morgan, one of the most powerful bankers of all time, once asserted that people usually have two reasons for anything they do: one that sounds good and the real one. Appeal to people’s nobler motives by providing them with that good reason. Speak and act in a way that assumes the best of them.
StoryShot #14: Make Situations Interesting or Competitive
Merely stating the truth isn’t enough. We must make the truth vivid, interesting, and dramatic. A demonstration is far more memorable than words. Show people your ideas rather than telling them.
Famous investor, Charles Schwab, once had a mill manager whose workers weren’t meeting their production quotas. The mill manager had tried everything, with no success. Schwab simply asked how many products the mill’s day shift had made and wrote the number in chalk on the mill floor.
When the night shift arrived, the new employees asked what the number meant. After learning the reason, the team made one more than the day shift had managed and wrote that number on the floor. Not wanting to be shown up, the day shift produced even more. This process continued until that mill was the most productive on the plant.
The principle here is not to set people against each other in a destructive way. Issue a challenge. The love of the game and the chance to prove self-worth are among the most potent motivators. So, introduce some competition when you need to inspire others.
StoryShot #15: Criticize Others Without Becoming Hated
Before you point out a fault in another person’s action, begin with an honest appreciation for what they have done well. After doing so, you might even find the other person points out their own fault and volunteers to correct it.
You can also lead by example. When Wanamaker’s department store president John Wanamaker was on his daily rounds through the flagship store, he noticed a customer waiting at the counter unattended. Store staff stood talking and laughing among themselves at the other end of the counter. Wanamaker slipped behind the counter, served the customer himself, and handed the package to the staff to be wrapped as he continued on his way. Without saying a word, he had clearly communicated to the staff what he expected of them.
When you must criticize, try to do so indirectly.
StoryShot #16: Don’t Behave Like You Are Superior
Criticism is much easier to take when the other person talks about their own faults. When you need to criticize directly, first mention how you made similar mistakes or have deficiencies in other areas.
By asking questions instead of giving direct orders, you save people’s pride and preserve their feeling of importance.
General Electric once had to replace the head of one of its departments – a genius in electricity who wasn’t suitable to be a department head. Instead of demoting him, General Electric gave him the new title of “Consulting Engineer of the General Electric Company.”
We rarely think about helping others save face, but it often won’t take much effort and has a lasting impact. You’ll also get much better results by praising people for any slight improvement or small task done properly than by criticizing when they come up short.
StoryShot #17: Make Living up to Expectations a Joy
A truth of human nature is that people will be compelled to live up to whatever reputation you attribute to them. Tell a person you think they are honest, industrious, or have any other virtue, and they will usually live up to it – even if their previous actions had showed otherwise.
Carnegie tells us how he once declined to play a game of bridge with a friend, stating that the game was too complicated for him. His friend replied, “Why, Dale, it is no trick at all. There is nothing to bridge except memory and judgment. You once wrote a chapter on memory. It is right up your alley.”
By telling people that a goal is easily within their grasp or that some fault can easily be corrected, you will give them the confidence to reach the goal or correct the fault.
The key to making people glad to do what you want, yet again, is to make them feel important. Give them recognition as the best person for a job, or authority to oversee a matter, and they will embrace the role you have laid out for them.
When Napoleon Bonaparte created the Legion of Honor, he gave 1,500 crosses to his soldiers. He also named 18 of his generals “Marshals of France” and christened the troops “the Grand Army.” When criticized for giving out “toys,” he responded, “Men are ruled by toys.”
Final Summary and Review
Carnegie advocates an approach to human relations that is analytical and proactive, encouraging us to get ahead by thinking in advance about the other person. It seems simple because it is. Effective relationships come simply from being able to put other people first. This book’s reminders and insights about how to do so practically in everyday life have earned it a reputation as one of the most useful relationship books of all time.
Let’s revisit those key insights:
- Be humble. Try not to be too defensive; be sure to let others feel understood and valued.
- Take an active interest in others and engage genuinely.
- Try to think positively about others and smile often.
- Remember people’s first names and use them in conversations.
- Allow others space to talk about themselves, especially when disagreements arise.
- Research others’ interests in advance.
- Look for things you admire in others, so you can genuinely value them.
- Avoid confrontation that causes others to lose face, even if you can “win” an argument.
- Be willing to admit your own errors and faults.
- Seek constructive discussion rather than arguments.
- Find points of common ground with others and emphasize those points.
- Don’t blow your own trumpet.
- Don’t judge others; aim for compassionate understanding instead.
- Motivate others by making situations more interesting through challenges and constructive competition.
- Lead by example rather than direct criticism.
- Praise often, and do not act superior to others.
- Help others to feel they are good people, that they are appreciated, and that they can achieve their goals.
This book gives you techniques that may help you with personal networking and convincing others to do what you want. It therefore only teaches how to influence on a small scale, and is not so useful for trying to spread big ideas or convert many people to your way of thinking, nor has it been updated for the social media age.
You may also find the methods too simplified and cynical to help you form meaningful relationships in the real world. Be aware, too, of the danger of focusing on others’ interests and ideas at the expense of your own. Ultimately, there is a balance to strike when forming your own principles, and you can decide how far you wish to apply Carnegie’s methods.
We rate this timeless book 4.7/5.
This article was first published in 2021. It was updated and revised on 24 Dec 2022.
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