How to Win Friends and Influence People Summary for Business Success

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is the go-to classic book on human behavior and relationships. Here are the three most important points:

  • If you want to be interesting, be interested.
  • Winning people over is all about making them feel good.
  • Investing in relationships is paramount for success.

And the one sentence summary:

How To Win Friends And Influence People teaches readers how to connect with people, be more likable, win deals and improve relationships.

And the animated summary:

Dale Carnegie’s quintessential principles from his groundbreaking book How to Win Friends and Influence People have stood the test of time. In this post, I want to give you the summary for the workplace, professional relationships and the business environment.

Part I: Fundamental Techniques for Handling People

Let’s start with the basics. When you walk into the office or email a colleague or go to a networking event, you always should use these three basic people principles.

Principle #1: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive. Criticism more often is met with resentment than behavioral change. When you don’t agree with someone, feel they have done wrong, or need to give someone negative feedback, it’s hard not to be critical. However, Carnegie argues we cannot change behavior with threats or punishments. In his classic study, psychologist B.F. Skinner proved that when animals are rewarded for good behavior, they learn faster than animals punished for bad behavior.

Let’s follow Benjamin Franklin’s wise advice: “I will speak ill of no man… and speak all the good I know of everybody.”

Principle #2: Make people feel important with curiosity

The Big Secret of Dealing with People is making everyone feel important. We don’t do this with false flattery or brown nosing — there is nothing worse than an office suck-up. Carnegie argues the best way to make someone feel important is to be curious about them. When you are sitting with a colleague or chatting with someone at a networking event, ask questions that allow you to be sincerely interested.

Follow Charles Schwab’s lead, “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among the men the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement.”

Action Step: Use one of our favorite 33 Conversation Starters.

Principle #3: Appeal to the other person’s desires

He Who Can Do This Has the Whole World with Him. Before empathy became a buzzword, Carnegie was all about putting yourself in everyone else’s shoes. The best metaphor in this chapter comes from David Lloyd George, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He said he was able to maintain his power because he could “bait the hook to suit the fish.” When you want to convince someone to buy your product, go into business with you, or agree with your idea, don’t tell them why it will work, tell them why it will benefit them.

Make Henry Ford’s motto your own: “If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own.”

Part II: Six Ways to Make People Like You

Principle #4: Become genuinely interested in other people

Do This and You’ll Be Welcome Anywhere. Instead of thinking about how you can be impressive, aim to let others impress you. Invite them to tell you about their accomplishments and check in with them on both personal and professional endeavors. If you are comfortable, be the office cheerleader or a supporter of people in your network. Some ideas:

  • Remember other people’s birthdays.
  • Send LinkedIn messages of congratulations when someone in your network gets a promotion or professional success.
  • Coordinate office parties for personal celebrations such as births, accomplishments or birthdays.

Quote to post on your workspace: “We are interested in others when they are interested in us.” – Publilius Syrus

Principle #5: Genuinely smile

A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression. This is the only principle in the entire book that I have some issues with. Carnegie argues that a smile is the best way to show someone: “I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.” While this is true advice, it can backfire if:

  • You do not actually feel happy to see someone.
  • You are having a bad day yourself.
  • You are trying to fake it until you make it.

In a professional setting, a smile is not always needed. A warm greeting — yes! Acknowledgement of someone — definitely! Avoiding the negative — sure! But you do not have to walk around the office with a fake smile plastered to your face. It comes across as insincere and is not seen as professional. Watch my TED Talk for the science on this:

Principle #6: Remember people’s names

If You Don’t Do This, You Are Headed for Trouble. We love hearing the sound of our own name. An easy way to make someone feel appreciated and heard is to show them you remember their name by using it regularly. This also means you have to work to remember names when you hear them. Create a system to remember people’s names when you hear them. Or study up before meetings or networking events by looking over the RSVP list.

Dale Carnegie summarizes this nicely: “The average person is more interested in his or her own name than in all the other names on Earth put together.”

Principle #7: Be a good listener by encouraging others to talk about themselves

An Easy Way to Become a Good Conversationalist. We often think that being a good conversationalist means coming up with witty stories and funny jokes. But, actually, we like to hear ourselves talk. If you want to be seen as interesting, ask interesting questions and try to get the other person to open up. This doesn’t mean you have to sit listening in silence. I like to think about listening as an active experience. Ask questions, use ‘aha’s’ and ‘wow’s’ and give them nonverbal encouragement.

Are you really addicted to talking? Or worse, are you an interrupter? You might consider taking a Vow of Silence. I do one of these every year and have found it to be life-changing for my listening ability.

Principle #8: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests

How to Interest People. I love to look for people’s hot buttons. These are topics of conversations that light up people. You should know all of your colleagues hot buttons — what do they love to talk about? What do they spend their free time reading about? What gets them talking? Whenever you are with them, try to encourage them to talk about their most passionate interest and try to learn from them. This is the best way to get someone onto your side to show them you are interested in theirs.

Listen to Teddy Roosevelt: “The royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most.”

Principle #9: Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

How to Make People Like You Instantly. Treat other people in the way you yourself would like to be treated. Carnegie says that whenever you meet someone, you should ask yourself this basic question:

“What is there about him that I can honestly admire?”

Practice doing this with everyone you meet and pay special attention to people close to you.

Part III: How to Win People Over to Your Way of Thinking

Principle #10: The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it

You Can’t Win an Argument. Carnegie makes a great argument about arguing — you can’t win. Even if you have the best possible stances and evidence, if you shoot down your opponent or make them feel wrong, they will resent you. So, even if you technically ‘win,’ you actually lose. This is especially hard in the age of data, instant Googling and research. If you want to prove someone wrong, see how you can discover what is right together.

Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “No man who is resolved to make the most of himself can spare the time for personal contention.”

Principle #11: Never say, “You’re wrong”

A Sure Way of Making Enemies – and How to Avoid It. Every conflict or debate should start with a big dose of humility. We tend to think we are in the right all the time — immune to silly mistakes. However, if we go through life constantly thinking “I’m right,” that makes others instantly wrong if they disagree with you. NO ONE likes to be wrong. Instead, be open to others’ opinions. I love Carnegie’s script for when you *think* someone is wrong. Say:

“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.”

Then proceed to discover the facts together.

Principle #12: If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically

If You’re Wrong, Admit It. Admitting you’re wrong is actually a great way to build empathy, rapport and trust. Instead of avoiding your mistakes or trying to hide them, Carnegie encourages readers to admit wrongdoing “quickly, openly, and with enthusiasm.” This helps people see you as human. And when you condemn yourself, other people seek to understand you and perhaps even defend you.

Principle #13: Begin in a friendly way

The High Road to a Man’s Reason is kindness. No matter how angry, frustrated or upset you are — never start on a bad foot. There is almost no way to recover from a bad start. Woodrow Wilson put it best:

“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 that 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.”

Principle #14: Get the other person saying “yes, yes” as quickly as possible

The Secret of Socrates. Always try starting an interaction on agreement. What can you and the other person emphatically agree on? What questions can you ask that get the other person to say ‘Yes!’ or ‘Me too!’? If you start in agreement, it is easier to finish with agreement. Carnegie bases his argument on the “Socratic method.” His approach to people always was to ask people questions with which they have to agree. This gets people into a ‘yes’ frame of mind and will make them more open to new ideas later. It also makes ‘no’s’ harder, so people think twice before saying ‘no.’

If you want some other ideas on getting agreement, check out my book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People.

Principle #15: Let the other person do a great deal of the talking

The Safety Valve in Handling Complaints. When people do not feel heard, understood or valued, they close up and shut down. If you are dealing with a difficult person, try finding the good in them. Remind them of their best day. La Rochefoucauld wisely said, “If you want enemies, excel your friends; but if you want friends, let your friends excel you.”

If you have really difficult or toxic people in your life, you also can try our techniques for dealing with them.

Principle #16: Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers

How to Get Cooperation. This is a hard one — but incredibly important. Carnegie argues that credit should not always be given where it is due. When you can, give up credit, offer praise, highlight someone’s else’s contribution.

In the words of Lao Tzu:

“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.”

Principle #17: Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view

A Formula That Will Work Wonders for You. There is a simple test you can use to test your own opinions: Try arguing against yourself. If you clearly are able to argue someone else’s point of view, it means you can see both sides clearly. Make a practice of stepping into the other person’s shoes and arguing their points for them. This helps you check in on your own opinions. And regularly remind people that you understand and empathize with how they feel.

Principle #18: Be sympathetic toward the other person’s ideas and desires

What Everybody Wants. Sympathy. We all want to make sure that people understand our point of view. In fact, the more you can use someone else’s words and tell them about their own opinions the better!

Carnegie uses a magical phrase:  “I don’t blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you, I should undoubtedly feel just as you do.”

Principle #19: Appeal to the nobler motives

An Appeal That Everybody Likes. We all like to think of ourselves as good people. We like to think we have values. We like to think of ourselves as upstanding citizens. It’s important to remind people of their higher values. For example, Carnegie tells a story of a landlord who has a tenant who wants to break his lease four months early. Instead of pointing out the contract details and threatening a claim, he tries this instead:

“Mr. Doe, I have listened to your story and I still don’t believe you intend to move. I sized you up when I first met you as being a man of your word. Take a few days to think it over, and if you still intend to move, I will accept your decision as final.”

By appealing to someone’s sense of goodness, you often can encourage them to act with good intentions.

Principle #20: Dramatize your ideas

The Movies Do It. The Radio Does It. Why Don’t You Do It? The more you can make your language, examples and stories “vivid, interesting, dramatic,” the more people will listen. We all like a little bit of flare and drama. Don’t stick with a boring slide template, make it snazzy. Don’t present from a lectern, take some ideas from the best TED Talks. Don’t do what everyone else is doing, do something different. This is especially important if you are doing a lot of presentations or public speaking. Here are my ideas for adding some drama to your stage presence.

Take your people skills to the next level with our flagship transformational course, People School.

Principle #21: Throw down a challenge

When Nothing Else Works, Try This. A little competition can be good to get people energized. If you need to motivate people and you have tried sincere compliments, showing empathy and helping people feel heard, then you might want to try stimulating those competitive juices. There are easy ways to do this in an office:

  • Set up a scoreboard for leads.
  • Track sales numbers.
  • Have an idea competition.

Part IV: Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Offending Them or Arousing Resentment

Principle #22: How to keep a disagreement from becoming an argument

If You Must Find Fault, This Is the Way to Begin. What has someone done well? Where can you agree? What is working? Carnegie encourages readers to start all interactions — especially ones that have the potential for disagreement, with honest appreciation. I call this the Poop Sandwich Method. If you have to give someone poopy news, put it in between two slices of good bread.

  • Bread: Sincere Appreciation
  • Poop: Bad News
  • Bread: Compliment

It makes that hard news a little more palatable.

Principle #23: Welcome the disagreement

How to Criticize – and Not Be Hated for It. When you must criticize, try finding a way to do so indirectly. This is similar to the Poop Sandwich Method — you have to be able to give hard news sometimes. When giving a Poop Sandwich, always use ‘and’ not ‘but.’ Most people begin their criticism with appreciation, but then follow it with the word “but” and go into the poopy news, such as “You’ve been working so hard and we really appreciate that, but…” Once someone hears the “but”, it makes them question the sincerity of the appreciation. Try replacing the word “but” with “and”. Example: “You’ve been working so hard and we really appreciate that, and we have some ideas on how to make all of your effort pay off even more. Here’s what we were thinking…”

Principle #24: Admit your mistakes upfront

Talk About Your Own Mistakes First. When we have something that embarasses us or we make a mistake, we often try hiding it or burying the bad news. Carnegie offers the exact opposite advice! He says you should admit your mistakes and shortcomings right away so someone sees your transparency. In a job interview, this might mean bringing up a gap in your resume or skills before you are asked. This shows that you are not trying to hide anything and puts you in control of how you frame the information. After sharing a mistake or bad news, talk about how you will solve it!

Principle #25: Control your bossiness

No One Likes to Take Orders. Even if you are a manager or boss, beware of giving orders. No one likes to be bossed around.

Principle #26: Consider someone’s ego

Let the Other Man Save His Face. If you have feedback for someone or want to challenge someone’s opinion, you want to do it privately. Nothing is more shameful than being reprimanded or corrected in front of a large group of people. Think about someone’s ego if you do have to give them a Poop Sandwich. Do it privately and maybe at the end of a day or before a weekend so they can head home to process in private.

Principle #27: Be liberal with praise

How to Spur Men on to Success. While Carnegie encourages readers to be careful and hold back criticism or judgment, he says to lavish genuine praise whenever it is warranted. Here are some ideas:

  • Thank people for their work.
  • Compliment any exceptional traits or qualities.
  • Be specific with your compliments — and don’t give everyone the same compliments!

Principle #28: Promise to think over your opponent’s ideas and study them carefully

Give the Dog a Good Name. A truth of human nature is that people will be compelled to live up to whatever reputation you attribute to them. When you give someone a positive label or set a high bar they are more likely to clear it. Carnegie summarizes this well, “The average person can be led readily if you have his or her respect and if you show that you respect that person for some kind of ability.” Always be looking for someone’s natural skills or talents, then remind them of these talents so they use them more often!

Principle #29: Thank your opponents

Make the Fault Seem Easy to Correct. As much as possible, praise someone’s good points and minimize their faults. When you encourage people to reach their goals and overcome their obstacles, they are more likely to feel less overwhelmed or threatened.

Principle #30: Get on the same page

Making People Glad to Do What You Want. The final message of the book summarizes everything Carnegie stands for. He encourages readers to think about everyone else’s perspective, have high expectations and help people get what they want. Being good with people is about making it about them.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

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