How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: Summary and Lessons

How to Win Friends and Influence People

“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”

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Related: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Zero to One

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How to Win Friends and Influence People Short Summary

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a self-help classic that reads as a life manual. The core idea is that you can change other people’s behavior simply by changing your own. It teaches you the principles to better understand people, become a more likable person, improve relationships, win others over, and influence behavior through leadership.

Executive Summary

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people
  2. Smile
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, ‘You’re wrong’
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically
  4. Begin in a friendly way
  5. Get the other person saying ‘yes, yes’ immediately
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
  7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives
  11. Dramatize your ideas
  12. Throw down a challenge

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offence or Arousing Resentment 

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders
  5. Let the other person save face
  6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be ‘hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise’
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to
  8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct
  9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest

Part One: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

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

Most people don’t criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong it may be.

Criticism is futile and dangerous. It puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. And it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.

People learn faster and retain knowledge more effectively when rewarded for good behavior than punished for bad behavior. By criticizing, we do not make lasting changes and often incur resentment.

“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”

Anyone can criticize, condemn and complain. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.

Principle 2: Give honest and sincere appreciation.

The only way to get a person to do anything is by giving them what they want. What do most people want?

Health, food, sleep, money, sex. Almost all these wants are usually gratified – all except one: the desire to be important.

This desire is what makes you want to wear the latest styles, drive the latest cars, and talk about your brilliant children. If you tell me how you get your feeling of importance, I’ll tell you what you are. That determines your character.

How do you make people feel important? By appreciation and encouragement

‘I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism.’ 

Know the difference between appreciation and flattery. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned.

Flattery is selfish and insincere. It’s cheap praise. You tell the other person precisely what he thinks about himself. In the long run, flattery will do you more harm than good

Appreciation is unselfish and sincere. It happens when we stop thinking about ourselves and begin to think of the other person’s good points.

Be ‘hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise,’ and people will cherish your words and treasure them and repeat them over a lifetime – repeat them years after you have forgotten them.

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

Of course, you are interested in what you want. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want.

The only way to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.

In the words of Henry Ford:

“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.”

This does not mean manipulating someone so that he will do something that is only for your benefit and his detriment. Each party should gain from the negotiation.

Part Two: Six Ways to Make People Like You

Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people.

If you only try to impress people and get them interested in you, you won’t have many true friends. Real friends are not made that way.

If you want to make friends, put yourself out to do things for other people – things that require time, energy, unselfishness, and thoughtfulness.

We are interested in others when they are interested in us.

A show of interest, as with every other principle of human relations, must be sincere. It must pay off not only for the person showing the interest but for the person receiving the attention. It is a two-way street – both parties benefit.

Principle 2: Smile.

Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.’

You must have a good time meeting people if you expect them to have a good time meeting you.

Force yourself to smile. If you are alone, force yourself to whistle or hum a tune or sing. Act as if you were already happy and that will tend to make you happy. 

Control your thoughts. Happiness depends on inner conditions, not outward ones. It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it. Shakespeare said it best:

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Your smile is a messenger of your goodwill and brightens the lives of all who see it. To someone who has seen a dozen people frown, scowl or turn their faces away, your smile is like the sun breaking through the clouds.

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

The average person is more interested in his or her own name than in all the other names on earth put together.

“Remember that name and call it easily, and you have paid a subtle and very effective compliment. But forget it or misspell – it and you have placed yourself at a sharp disadvantage.”

Most people don’t remember names, for the simple reason that they don’t take the time and energy necessary to concentrate and repeat and fix names indelibly in their minds.

A simple technique to memorize names:

  1. If you don’t hear the name distinctly, ask the person to repeat it
  2. For unusual names, ask for the spelling
  3. Repeat the name several times during the conversation
  4. Associate the name with the person’s features, expression, and general appearance
  5. Write it down later so you can visualize the name as well

A name is wholly and completely owned by the person with whom we are dealing… and nobody else. It sets the individual apart; it makes him or her unique among all others.

From the waitress to the senior executive, the name will work magic as you deal with others.

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

To be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested.

Ask questions that the other person will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.

Remember people are a hundred times more interested in themselves and their wants and problems than they are in you and your problems. Think of that the next time you start a conversation.

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

People like to talk about themselves. A particular topic is the things that they enjoy.

Whenever Roosevelt expected a visitor, he sat up late the night before, reading up on the subject in which he knew his guest was particularly interested.

“Roosevelt knew that the royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most.”

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

There is one all-important law of human conduct: always make the other person feel important.

If we obey that law, we shall almost never get into trouble. In fact, that law, if obeyed, will bring us countless friends and constant happiness. But the very instant we break the law, we shall get into endless trouble.

Give to others what we would have others give to us. How? When? Where? All the time, everywhere.

Little phrases such as ‘I’m sorry to trouble you,’ ‘Would you be so kind as to – ?’ ‘Won’t you please?’ ‘Would you mind?’ ‘Thank you’ – little courtesies like these oil the cogs of the monotonous grind of everyday life – and incidentally, they are the hallmark of good breeding.

Most people you meet feel superior to you in some way. A sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance sincerely.

“‘Talk to people about themselves,’ said Disraeli, one of the shrewdest men who ever ruled the British Empire. ‘Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.’”

Part Three: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

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

Most arguments end with each person more firmly convinced than ever that he is absolutely right.

You can’t win an argument. If you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.

When you win an argument, you make the other person feel inferior. You hurt his pride and he will resent your triumph. In the words of Ben Franklin:

“If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s goodwill.”

How to keep a disagreement from becoming an argument:

  • Welcome the disagreement. Be thankful if there is some point you haven’t thought about is brought to your attention. It’s an opportunity to be corrected before you make a serious mistake
  • Distrust your first instinctive impression. Our first natural reaction is to be defensive. Keep calm and watch out for your first reaction
  • Control your temper. Remember, you can measure the size of a person by what makes him or her angry
  • Listen first. Give your opponents a chance to talk before resisting, defending or debating. Don’t raise barriers. Build bridges of understanding
  • Look for areas of agreement. Talk first about the points and areas on which you both agree
  • Be honest. Look for areas where you can admit error and say so. Apologize for your mistakes. It disarms opponents and reduces defensiveness
  • Promise to think over your opponents’ ideas and study them carefully. And mean it. Your opponents may be right. It is a lot easier at this stage to agree to think about their points than to move rapidly ahead and find yourself in a position where your opponents can say: ‘We tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen’
  • Thank your opponents sincerely for their interest. Anyone who takes the time to disagree with you is interested in the same things you are. Think of them as people who really want to help you, and you may turn your opponents into friends
  • Postpone action to give both sides time to think through the problem. Suggest that a new meeting be held later that day or the next day, when all the facts may be brought to bear. In preparation for this meeting, ask yourself some hard questions:
    • Could they be right (even if partly)?
    • Is there truth or merit in their position or argument?
    • Is my reaction one that will relieve the problem, or will it just relieve any frustration?
    • Will my reaction drive them further away or draw them closer to me?
    • Does my reaction elevate the estimation good people have of me?
    • Will I win or lose?
    • What price will I have to pay if I win?
    • If I am quiet about it, will the disagreement blow over?
    • Is this difficult situation an opportunity for me?

Principle 2: Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, ‘You’re wrong.’

Tell people they are wrong and you have struck a direct blow at their intelligence, pride, and self-respect. You won’t make them want to change their minds and they will never want to agree with you.

If you are going to prove anything, don’t let anybody know it. Do it so subtly. As Galileo said:

“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself.”

When someone makes a statement that you know 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.’

There’s positive magic in admitting you could be wrong. It’s hard to object to such phrases.

“You will never get into trouble by admitting that you may be wrong. That will stop all argument and inspire your opponent to be just as fair and open and broad-minded as you are. It will make him want to admit that he, too, may be wrong.”

When we are wrong, we may admit it to ourselves. And if we are handled gently and tactfully, we may admit it to others and even take pride in our frankness and broad-mindedness. But not when the other part belittles us.

Don’t argue with your customer or your spouse or your adversary. Use a little diplomacy. It will help you gain your point. 

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

If we know we are going to be rebuked anyhow, it’s far better to beat the other person to it and do it ourselves. It’s easier to listen to self-criticism than to bear condemnation from alien lips.

Say about yourself all the derogatory things you know the other person is thinking or wants to say or intends to say – and say them before that person has a chance to say them.

There is a certain degree of satisfaction in having the courage to admit your errors. It not only clears the air of guilt and defensiveness but often helps solve the problem created by the mistake.

“When you are right, try to win people gently and tactfully to our way of thinking. When you are wrong – and that will be surprisingly often, if you are honest with yourself – admit your mistakes quickly and with enthusiasm.”

This technique will produce astonishing results as well as being more fun than trying to defend oneself. As the proverb goes: ‘By fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected.’

Principle 4: Begin in a friendly way.

To win someone to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.

Friendly approach and appreciation can make people change their minds more readily than all the bluster and storming in the world.

Remember the words of Lincoln: ‘A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’

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

When talking with someone, begin by emphasizing – and keep on emphasizing – the things on which you agree.

Keep emphasizing, if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and that your only difference is one of method and not of purpose. Get the other person saying ‘Yes, yes’ at the outset. Keep them from saying ‘No.’

A ‘No’ response is the most difficult handicap to overcome. All your pride of personality demands that you remain consistent with yourself. Once having said a thing, you feel you must stick to it

The skillful speaker gets, at the outset, a number of ‘Yes’ responses. This sets the psychological process of the listeners moving in the affirmative direction.

When tempted to tell someone he is wrong, ask a gentle question – a question that will get the ‘yes, yes’ response.

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

Most people trying to win others to their way of thinking do too much talking themselves. Let the other people talk themselves out. Ask them questions.

When you disagree with them, don’t interrupt. Listen patiently and with an open mind. Be sincere about it. Encourage them to express their ideas fully. Even our friends would much rather talk to us about their achievements than listen to us boast about ours.

La Rochefoucauld, the French philosopher, said:

‘If you want enemies, excel your friends; but if you want friends, let your friends excel you.’

When our friends excel us, they feel important; but when we excel them, they – or at least some of them – will feel inferior and envious.

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

People have more faith in ideas that they discover for themselves than in ones handed to them. 

Don’t try to ram your opinions down the throats of other people. Instead, make suggestions and let other people think about the conclusion.

No one likes to feel that he or she is being sold something or told to do a thing. We much prefer to feel that we are buying our own accord or acting on our own ideas. We like to be consulted about our wishes, our wants, our thoughts.

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

Other people may be totally wrong. But they don’t think so. Don’t condemn but instead try to understand them.

There is a reason why the other man thinks and acts as he does. Find that reason and you have the key to his actions, perhaps to his personality. Put yourself in his place. Success in dealing with people depends on a sympathetic grasp of the other person’s viewpoint.

“Cooperativeness in conversation is achieved when you show that you consider the other person’s ideas and feelings as important as your own. Starting your conversation by giving the other person the purpose or direction of your conversation, governing what you say by what you would want to hear if you were the listener, and accepting his or her viewpoint will encourage the listener to have an open mind to your ideas.”

Always ask yourself: ‘Why should he want to do it?’ This will take time but it will avoid making enemies and will get better results.

Principle 9: Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.

A magic phrase to stop arguments, eliminate ill feelings, create goodwill, and make the other person listen attentively: ‘I don’t blame for feeling as you do. If I were you I would undoubtedly feel just as you do.’

An answer like that will soften anyone. And you can say that and be 100% sincere, because if you were the other person you, of course, would feel just as he does.

Most people you meet want sympathy. Give it to them, and they will love you.

Principle 10: Appeal to the nobler motives.

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 11: Dramatize your ideas.

This is the day of dramatization. Merely stating a truth isn’t enough. The truth has to be made vivid, interesting, dramatic.

You have to use showmanship. The movies do it. Television does it. And you will have to do it if you want attention.

Principle 12: Throw down a challenge.

To get things done, stimulate competition using the desire to excel.

‘All men have fears, but the brave put down their fears and go forward, sometimes to death, but always to victory.’

The one major factor that motivates people is the work itself. If the work was exciting and interesting, the worker looks forward to doing it and is motivated to do a good job.

That is what every successful person loves: the game. The chance for self-expression. The chance to prove his or her worth, to excel, to win. The desire for a feeling of importance.

Part Four: Be a Leader

Principle 1: Begin with praise and honest appreciation.

It is always easier to listen to unpleasant things after we have heard some praise of our good points.

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

Many people begin their criticism with sincere praise followed by the word ‘but’ and ending with a critical statement.

For example: ‘We’re really proud of you, Johnnie, for raising your grades this term. But if you had worked harder on your algebra, the results would have been better.’

Johnnie might feel encouraged until he heard the word ‘but.’ It makes him question the sincerity of the original praise. It seemed only to be a contrived lead-in to a critical inference of failure. Credibility would be strained, and we probably would not achieve our objectives of changing Johnnie’s attitude toward his studies. This could be easily overcome by changing the word ‘but’ to ‘and.’

Like this: ‘We’re really proud of you, Johnnie, for raising your grades this term, and by continuing the same conscientious efforts next term, your algebra grade can be up with all the others.’

Now, Johnnie would accept the praise because there was no follow-up of an inference of failure. We have called his attention to the behavior we wished to change indirectly, and the chances are he will try to live up to our expectations. Calling attention to one’s mistakes indirectly works wonders with sensitive people who may resent bitterly any direct criticism.

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

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.

Admitting one’s own mistakes – even when one hasn’t corrected them – can help convince somebody to change his behavior.

Principle 4: Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.

Asking questions not only makes an order more palatable; it often stimulates the creativity of the persons whom you ask.

People are more likely to accept an order if they have had a part in the decision that caused the order to be issued.

Principle 5: Let the other person save face.

We ride roughshod over the feelings of others, getting our own way, finding fault, issuing threats, criticizing a child or an employee in front of others, without even considering the hurt to the other person’s pride.

Whereas a few minutes’ thought, a considerate word or two, a genuine understanding of the other person’s attitude, would go so far toward alleviating the sting! Let’s remember that the next time we are faced with the distasteful necessity of discharging or reprimanding an employee.

Even if we are right and the other person is definitely wrong, we only destroy ego by causing someone to lose face. 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.’

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

Praise even the slightest improvement to inspire the other person to keep on improving.

The use of praise instead of criticism is the basic concept of B.F. Skinner’s teachings. The great contemporary psychologist has shown by experiments with animals and with humans that when criticism is minimized and praise emphasized, the good things people do will be reinforced and the poorer things will atrophy for lack of attention.

Everybody likes to be praised, but when praise is specific, it comes across as sincere – not something the other person may be saying just to make one feel good. Remember, we all crave appreciation and recognition, and will do almost anything to get it. But nobody wants flattery.

Let me repeat: The principles taught in this book will work only when they come from the heart. I am not advocating a bag of tricks. I am talking about a new way of life. Talking about changing people. If you and I will inspire the people with whom we come in contact to a realization of the hidden treasures they possess, we can do far more than change people. We can literally transform them.

Abilities wither under criticism; they blossom under encouragement. 

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

If you want to improve a person in a certain respect, act as though that particular trait were already one of his or her outstanding characteristics. Shakespeare said ‘Assume a virtue, if you have it not.’

And it might be well to assume and state openly that other people have the virtue you want them to develop. Give them a fine reputation to live up to, and they will make prodigious efforts rather than see you disillusioned.

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

Tell your child, your spouse, or your employee that he or she is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, has no gift for it and is doing it all wrong, and you have destroyed almost every incentive to try to improve.

But use the opposite technique – be liberal with your encouragement, make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it, that he has an undeveloped flair for it – and he will practice until the dawn comes in the window in order to excel.

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

Always make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

Some guidelines when you want to someone’s behavior:

  1. Be sincere. Do not promise anything that you cannot deliver. Forget about the benefits to yourself and concentrate on the benefits to the other person
  2. Know exactly what it is you want the other person to do
  3. Be empathetic. Ask yourself what is it the other person really wants
  4. Consider the benefits that the person will receive from doing what you suggest
  5. Match those benefits to the other person’s wants
  6. When you make your request, put it in a form that will convey to the other person the idea that he personally will benefit from. An order sounds like this: ‘John, we have customers coming in tomorrow and I need the stockroom cleaned out. So sweep it out, put the stock in neat piles on the shelves and polish the counter.’ When you express the benefits: ‘John, I am bringing some customers in tomorrow to show our facilities. I would like to show them the stock-room, but it is in poor shape. If you could sweep it out, put the stock in neat piles on the shelves, and polish the counter, it would make us look efficient and you will have done your part to provide a good company image.’