How to Win Friends and Influence People | Study Guide

Dale Carnegie

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How to Win Friends and Influence People | Summary



How to Win Friends and Influence People is divided into four parts, along with three introductory prefaces and a short biography of Carnegie. Each part focuses on a different aspect of interacting successfully with people, from handling difficult individuals to winning people over to your way of thinking.


Three introductory pieces kick off the book, beginning with the "Preface to the 1981 Edition," in which Mrs. Carnegie explains the rationale for revising the already popular volume. While the content and tone of the book remain mostly the same, she writes, some outdated anecdotes have been replaced. Written by Dale Carnegie, the second piece "How This Book Was Written—and Why" tells how he developed the material for the book. At the time there was a demand for a book on "dealing with people," but none existed. So he adapted his popular training courses into book form. Carnegie calls How to Win Friends and Influence People "an action book," meaning readers need to do more than just read—they need to act on what they learn. The final preface offers "Nine Suggestions to Get the Most Out of This Book," including active practice of its principles and repeat readings to reinforce the material until it becomes second nature.

Part 1: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

Chapter 1, "If You Want to Gather Honey, Don't Kick Over the Beehive," focuses on the social directive, "Don't criticize, condemn or complain." By injuring pride, criticism makes people defensive and resentful. People may try to justify themselves when criticized, rather than take steps to change or admit error. Thus criticism becomes futile and may make a situation worse. Instead of condemning others, readers should develop their own "character and self-control" and strive to be "understanding and forgiving," putting themselves in the other person's shoes. People often are not "creatures of logic"; they are moved by and act on emotions, prejudices, and pride. The chapter ends with a note to parents about being too critical with children. In an excerpted anecdote, "Father Forgets" by W. Livingston Larned, a regretful father realizes he has been judging his young son by adult standards, expecting "too much of youth" and "measuring ... by the yardstick of my own years."

Chapter 2, "The Big Secret of Dealing with People," offers this advice: "Give honest and sincere appreciation." People are driven by the desire to be important. By offering sincere appreciation, you fulfill this desire, thereby influencing them to do what you want them to do because doing it makes them feel good about themselves. In the words of Charles Schwab, "appreciation and encouragement" are the best ways to "arouse enthusiasm" and "develop the best that is in a person." Rather than criticize, Schwab would offer "incentive to work" by being "hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise." Unfortunately, most people do the opposite and offer criticism instead. Offering sincere appreciation can be life changing, but one must guard against flattery, which is insincere praise. Consider the person's good points to find something genuinely admirable.

Chapter 3, called "He Who Can Do This Has the Whole World with Him. He Who Cannot Walks a Lonely Way," advises readers to "arouse in the other person an eager want." If you want people to do things your way, make them want to by showing what's in it for them. Do this by helping the person understand the benefits of the action as well as by pointing out disadvantages if the action isn't taken. Try to see things from "the other person's point of view" to determine what would motivate the person. Carnegie singles out business or marketing letters as often failing to do this because they state only what the company wants (payment of a bill, sales of a product, and so on) rather than how the customer might benefit from doing what the company wants. Similarly salespeople should make clear how a product can solve problems for the customer, allowing the product to sell itself. In all communications, be genuine in consideration of the other person; people can tell when you are interested in helping them as opposed to when you are concerned only with helping yourself. Try to find a way to make the situation a win-win for both parties. The same tactics apply in influencing children to behave as you want. Think about what is important to them, and make them see the benefit of doing as you suggest.

Part 2: Six Ways to Make People Like You

Chapter 1, "Do This and You'll Be Welcome Anywhere," advises readers to "become genuinely interested in other people." Instead of trying to impress others with how awesome you are, become interested in them. Most people are more interested in themselves than anyone else, including you. Learn people's names, show interest in their interests, and treat them respectfully. Show "concern for the seemingly unimportant people" not only the "important" people. Be kind and make efforts to perform small favors for others, unselfishly and unexpectedly, for your actions can change their lives.

Chapter 2 offers "A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression": "smile." A genuine smile from the heart makes people happy to see you, while a sour expression turns people away. Putting on a smile even when you don't feel like it may seem forced at first, but acting cheerful is the first step toward becoming cheerful. Carnegie further states that happiness comes "by controlling your thoughts," because it comes from within.

Chapter 3, "If You Don't Do This, You Are Headed for Trouble," advises readers to commit people's names to memory. After all "a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound." Forgetting a person's name shows the person is unimportant to you, whereas remembering it is "a subtle and very effective compliment."

Chapter 4 discusses "An Easy Way to Become a Good Conversationalist," which is to "be a good listener" and to "encourage others to talk about themselves." Good, or active, listening requires maintaining eye contact, not interrupting or contradicting, and giving the other person your undivided attention. Listening attentively subtly shows you find the person interesting. Offer honest praise, "ask questions the other person will enjoy answering," and hear others out when they complain. Being listened to can soothe a person's feelings, help them figure out a problem by talking it through, or fulfill their desire to feel important.

Chapter 5, "How to Interest People," recommends readers "talk in terms of the other person's interests" rather than their own. Even before meeting someone, you can read up on their interests to make conversation. Breaking the ice with such topics can be a good way to establish rapport before approaching someone with a request, question, or problem.

In Chapter 6, "How to Make People Like You Instantly," Carnegie urges readers to "make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely." Show genuine admiration and appreciation unselfishly and with no ulterior motive. Doing this will pave the way for "countless friends and constant happiness" because everyone wants to feel important. Remember to use polite language to make such encounters even more enjoyable.

Part 3: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

Chapter 1's title says it all: "You Can't Win an Argument." Arguing can make you lose your temper and cost you the other person's good will, especially if they lose the argument. Instead of staunchly sticking to your own guns, try to see the other person's point of view—they may have an important insight or prevent you from making a mistake. Stay calm and listen first, letting the other person have their say completely. Then promise to think over their ideas—and do it. Delay taking action to give "both sides time to think through the problem," and admit when you've made a mistake. Whenever possible, Carnegie recommends, avoid arguments.

Chapter 2 is titled, "A Sure Way of Making Enemies—and How to Avoid It." This sure way of turning people against you is to tell them, "You're wrong." Such a statement often makes people resist outside ideas, and they may even take the comment as a personal attack. Be diplomatic, offer the possibility you could be wrong, and "show respect for the other person's opinions." Rather than judge them, try to understand what they're saying.

Chapter 3's title, "If You're Wrong, Admit It," offers the chapter's advice. It is easier to criticize yourself than to hear criticism from another, and admitting your error may elicit compassion and understanding. The other person may even defend you, making allowances for your mistake. Even if you lose face, admit when you are wrong and take responsibility for your mistake.

Chapter 4, "A Drop of Honey," recommends readers "begin in a friendly way" when having an uncomfortable conversation, especially with an opponent. Although it may be satisfying to unleash your temper, it is unlikely to make the other person agree with you. If you open with aggression, the other person may respond in kind. Using a sincere, friendly tone and looking for common ground can help convert enemies to friends.

Chapter 5, "The Secret of Socrates," tells of the technique Socrates used in winning people to his point of view: getting the other person to say yes right away by asking pertinent questions with which they can't disagree. Carnegie urges readers to emphasize points of agreement rather than focus on differences. Remember you have the same goal: reaching an agreement that will benefit both parties.

Chapter 6 reveals "The Safety Valve in Handling Complaints": "let the other person do a great deal of the talking." Without interrupting or disagreeing, listen until they've spoken their mind so they feel they've had their say. Similarly you will gain more friends by allowing others to talk about themselves than you will by talking about your own achievements.

In Chapter 7, "How to Get Cooperation," Carnegie advises readers to "let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers." Not only do people like their own ideas, they don't like to be told what to do. So rather than try to convince someone to accept your idea, plant the seed of the idea in their mind first, and let them arrive on their own at the same conclusion you reached. Getting credit for an idea is less important than getting results. Ask clients and customers what they want and need rather than try to sell them what you think they need.

Chapter 8, "A Formula That Will Work Wonders for You," reminds readers to "try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view." Most people don't think they are wrong, so if you have a disagreement, try to discover the reasons motivating the other person. You may then be able to reach an agreement without ill feelings. Be considerate and respectful of the person's emotions and ideas, and be tactful. Cooperate during conversation, rather than try to force your opinion on the other person. Finally, before an important conversation, imagine what the other person might say and how you will respond.

In Chapter 9, "What Everybody Wants" is sympathy, and Carnegie asserts "they will love you" if you show it. Apologize if you've offended someone, and offer validation for hurt feelings with phrases such as "I don't blame you ... for feeling as you do." If someone has offended you, be the bigger person by controlling your temper and returning the insult with kindness. If you are very upset, allow yourself time to cool off before responding to the situation, and don't forget to look at it from the other person's point of view. Finally, when you need cooperation, show the person the benefits they will gain from doing as you suggest. Be sympathetic if the action you want causes difficulty, and the other person will be more likely to comply.

Chapter 10 offers "An Appeal That Everybody Likes": call on a person's noble nature to fulfill obligations or to take an action you want them to. Most people believe the best of themselves, so if you appeal to their sense of honor or challenge them to do their best, they often live up to expectations. Carnegie advises readers to assume people are honest, sincere, and eager to fulfill their duties. Approaching people as if they possess these qualities is likely to bring good results, and you can call on their "sense of fair play" if disagreements arise.

Chapter 11 is titled "The Movies Do It. TV Does It. Why Don't You Do It?" The "it" is "dramatize your ideas." Listening to facts and figures can be boring, but some added drama may well intrigue an audience. "You have to use showmanship" to capture people's attention, says Carnegie, and adds that readers should show, dramatically, how something will benefit the other person.

In Chapter 12, "When Nothing Else Works, Try This," Carnegie suggests using competition or challenges to motivate others or drive productivity because people respond to a challenge. Overcoming obstacles is satisfying, and a job that is "exciting and interesting" is more likely to keep workers motivated than merely drawing a salary or benefits. People do their best work when they enjoy what they do, and many want the chance to show their talents, excel, or feel important.

Part 4: Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

In Chapter 1, "If You Must Find Fault, This Is the Way to Begin," Carnegie advises readers to open delicate conversations with "praise and honest appreciation" because compliments can make it easier for the other person to accept criticism. If an employee is not performing as well as wanted, find an aspect of the person's work to praise honestly before talking about improving or changing. Use tactful language, and let the person know you have confidence in their abilities.

Chapter 2, "How to Criticize—and Not Be Hated for It," discusses direct versus indirect criticism. Many people, especially sensitive ones, respond poorly to direct criticism, so Carnegie advises readers to "call attention to people's mistakes indirectly." When necessary, lead by example, performing the actions you want others to do, rather than criticizing. Although it's a good idea to begin with praise before criticism, avoid following with a "but" statement. But sets a negative tone, and the person knows they're about to hear something unpleasant. Instead, use and statements that encourage more of the behavior you want or a positive statement of what the person can accomplish. The person should be able to read between the lines and understand where work or behavior needs improvement, without your stating it directly. It may also be effective to leave the choice up to the person, rather than try to force a change. If you explain the benefits the other person will receive, he or she will be more likely to change.

"Talk About Your Own Mistakes First" is the advice given in Chapter 3. Before criticizing, remember your own mistakes, and make allowances for the other person's age and experience level. Start off humbly by sharing an example of your own shortcomings, showing you understand the other's feelings and realize no one is perfect. Offer praise as well as criticism to help maintain good relations.

Chapter 4, "No One Likes to Take Orders," suggests that readers "ask questions instead of giving direct orders." Polite suggestions or leading questions can guide the other person where you want them to go without making them feel as though they are following commands. Moreover they may have more investment in the matter and come up with creative ideas. Letting people do things their own way gives them a "feeling of importance," avoids hurting their pride, and offers a chance to learn from mistakes.

Chapter 5 advises readers to "Let the Other Person Save Face" in a potentially embarrassing situation. Too often people "ride roughshod" over others' feelings, getting their "own way, finding fault, issuing threats, criticizing a child or an employee in front of others," and not caring about injured pride. Try to understand the other person's viewpoint. Being tactful and compassionate can make difficult situations easier and can maintain better relations, and by sparing the other person's feelings, you help preserve their good will toward you. One particular point of advice is to avoid putting another person on the spot in front of others; doing this can create tension or cause embarrassment. If someone has made a mistake, offer criticism as needed, but let them know you still have confidence in them by praising what they do well.

Chapter 6, "How to Spur People On to Success," urges readers to "praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement." Praise rather than criticism motivates people to achieve. Yet people are more apt to criticize than offer kind words, words that might even change a person's life or transform their personality. Carnegie advises readers to focus on specific achievements or traits when offering praise rather than make a general remark, which could be taken as mere flattery. According to psychologist B.F. Skinner, a proven method to encourage good behavior is to offer praise regularly and rarely criticize. This tactic will elicit more of the good behavior, and negative behaviors should fade away.

In Chapter 7, "Give a Dog a Good Name," Carnegie claims people often live up to whatever reputation you give them, whether good or bad. If you want someone to develop a certain trait, act as if they already possess that quality—more often than not they will live up to the reputation you've set for them. Reinforce good habits and accomplishments with praise and let others know you believe in them. This type of support can even help people transform their lives.

Chapter 8, "Make the Fault Seem Easy to Correct," reminds readers to be encouraging when someone makes mistakes. When overly criticized, people can become discouraged and may simply give up. However, a bit of encouragement can give them enough hope to keep trying or even try harder. When performing a task or correcting a fault is difficult or intimidating, try to make it seem easy and thus encourage them to try. Pointing out the benefits of the task can also motivate people to keep trying.

In Chapter 9, "Making People Glad to Do What You Want," Carnegie states, "make the other person happy" to comply. Appeal to the person's ego, use incentives, spell out how the person will benefit from the action, or reach a compromise that benefits both parties. Giving a person more authority in their work and an official title can also motivate them to work harder and more efficiently.

A Shortcut to Distinction

In this brief biography, author Lowell Thomas follows the rise of Dale Carnegie from a poor farmer's son in Missouri to a renowned lecturer and author in New York City and beyond. Carnegie's early life was one of hard work and sacrifice, but Carnegie overcame every obstacle on his quest to finish school and create a successful career. After trying many different jobs, from "selling bacon and soap and lard" to touring as an actor, he at last struck on the idea of teaching. During college Carnegie had worked hard on his speaking skills and won numerous public speaking contests. He realized he could use what he had learned during that time (and through his other work experiences) to present useful courses to business people on topics such as leadership and effective speaking. His courses became popular, and for more than 20 years, Carnegie worked with thousands of professionals on skills such as "public speaking, salesmanship, human relations and applied psychology."

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