How to Win Friends and Influence People: the bottom line.
Leadership is a big thing we all want to explore, both for self-development or business reasons. But where should we start?
Here is a book suggestion: in How to Win Friends and Influence People, leadership guru Dale Carnegie explains the basics of human intelligence and human skills. It’s very simple! There is a series of concepts you need to master if you plan on moving forward and doing better with what you have. And Carnegie helps you figure things out!
In short? A must-read business and self-development book, packed with value. So, what are you waiting for? Want to find out more? Read my How to Win Friends and Influence People summary!
Food for Thought: How to Win Friends and Influence People Summary – Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie is one of those authors that can be described as smartly un-temporal. When I found his book How To Win Friends and Influence People, though, I didn’t know much about it. But the cover caught my eye, so I just picked it.
I didn’t know much about the author, and I didn’t know how old the book was (1937!), but that didn’t seem relevant. Sixteen million copies sold (at least) in thirty-six different languages was a good argument. Plus, the topic sounded like something worth digging into (who doesn’t need friends and a little bit of influence, after all?). So, I went for it.
As it turns out, How To Win Friends and Influence People is one of those reference books when it comes to self-development, charisma, not to mention entrepreneurship and business development in general. The question is, why! Are you looking for food for thought on leadership and relationship-building? Read my How to Win Friends and Influence People summary!
As usual, here is what you get on this page:
- A brief overview of the book (that includes my SMART takes).
- A much more comprehensive commentary of what the book is about, with the author's main topics explained in detail.
- The book's main themes, questions and conclusions in bullet points.
- Why the book was worth my time, why it will be valuable to you, and additional reading suggestions if you are interested in the topic!
How to Win Friends: A brief book review, for starters…
As usual, let me start my book review with a brief overview. The big lines, a few words on the author’s style, and some bits of background.
Dale Carnegie is one of the reference authors and gurus in the area of personal improvement. As a matter of fact, if you think about doing better with what you already have, this is one of the names you’ve probably come across already.
The reason for that is simple: in his time, Carnegie relentlessly trained people to reach new levels and ambitions, from relationship building to public speaking or influence-head you covered. Decades later, his name has become a synonym for the topic. That doesn’t sound like a bad start, right?
Anyway, as you’ll see in my How to Win Friends and Influence People summary, this book is exactly about that. Helping people to do better with what they have. The focus, obviously, is on making friends and improving your charisma and influence. But it will teach you some great techniques for handling people, making people like you, and all that.
There is no miracle recipe in there, though. In fact, the book is more like a compilation of good common sense tips, but these are easier said than done so they remain totally worth thinking about every once in a while.
As far as the style is concerned, Carnegie’s writing is very easy to follow and actually makes the book an interesting piece. How To Win Friends and Influence People is written in a conversational style, but the references coming from another generation and century make it special, in a good way. The book it is packed with examples taken from American history (Lincoln was the Obama of the time) as well as from Carnegie’s training classes, which makes it a mine of information.
I’m getting into the details with a much more comprehensive book review below (keep reading!), but in short, here is what the book says:
The more comprehensive How to Win Friends and Influence People summary.
Now, let me get into the more comprehensive part of my THINK SMART How to Win Friends and Influence People summary.
Dale Carnegie’s book starts with a promise: reading his book will give you new visions and ambitions. He bets that his teaching will help you make friends quickly and easily, that it will help you build your credibility, your ability to convince, to manage arguments. So forth and so on.
To do that, Carnegie explores four main themes: techniques to handle people, ways to make people like you, ways to win people to your own ways of thinking, and in ways to overall improve your leadership. Because it’s all about influence, after all.
As usual, this more comprehensive part of the book review starts with the main themes and questions considered in the book – in bullet points. I’ll then elaborate on the themes more extensively. Let’s dig in!
The book in bullet points
Dale Carnegie explores these major themes:
- Human intelligence and skills
- Interpersonal relations
- Leadership building.
He also asks a variety of questions, including:
- How to win friends and Influence people / what is the best way to turn people into allies?
- What is the key element when it comes to human relations?
- How to talk to people efficiently?
- What do people want?
- Can you convince without creating tensions?
- What is leadership really about?
As you’ll see for yourself, the various topics follow a somehow redundant structure based on one big (huge) idea: the feeling of importance is your key to winning people. Redundancy isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. In fact, redundancy is quite common in self-development books, because the idea is to identify an important concept and explore it, again, and again, from different perspectives. A process to make you think smarter, in sum!
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Theme #1: Handling people.
The first main theme I need to mention in this book review and summary is people management.
How to handle people to get what you want is a difficult question everyone tries to solve sooner or later. For Carnegie, though, handling people requires several skills: being supportive (instead of being critical), being sincere, appreciative and focusing on what people want.
The key element here is very easy to remember. How To Win Friends and Influence People depends on one thing: every single one of us is driven by what Carnegie calls a feeling of importance. This is human nature, but we like to feel respected, we enjoy being the center of attention (at least occasionally), and we don’t like when someone steps on our toes, whatever the reasons.
Now, how does that principle help us win friends and influence people? Very simple: people’s feeling of importance is their weak spot, and your ability to handle that feeling will open many doors. Let’s get you some examples.
Avoid criticizing people.
In a very related and very logical way, another key idea in How To Win Friends and Influence People is that criticizing people is the best way to make enemies.
Let’s face it. At the end of the day, how do you handle criticism? You hate it, right? That’s normal, we are basically talking about human nature here.
What that means, though, is that to win friends and influence people, the first rule is trivial: be supportive. See the positive aspects of what people do and of who they are. Then, build on that. That’s a no-brainer! People don’t like being criticized. In fact, when they get criticized, they find excuses and close themselves to whatever you have to say. Criticism creates resentment. And resentment will get you nothing. Carnegie has a nice way of putting this, actually:
“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”
It’s not about you, it’s about them.
Now, considering that we are emotional beasts, how do you get people to do or act in a way we want?
Here, Carnegie provides another major principle: when researching how to win friends and influence people, you need to understand that nothing is about you. Everything is about them. For someone to act in a certain way, you must make him WANT to act that way. Period!
I mentioned the feeling of importance before, and this is exactly what this is about, again. To make people do something, you must make them happy and be wanting to do it. You must find a way to make them do the thing for themselves. And you must make sure they feel satisfied with doing this. This is a matter of ego. Winning people is a matter of ego.
For the same reason, winning people also requires being appreciative: to create enthusiasm, the key is to make the person feel not only happy but also rewarded. Of course, the notion of reward is wide. A reward can be about money, but it can also be a matter of personal satisfaction, a matter of pride. Again, finding what people want is the key. This is not to say that you should trick people, though. Far from that, Carnegie talks about sincerity, honesty. Always.
Find out what people want.
The next step is that to make people want to do something, you need to make sure that they have a genuine interest in doing it. Carnegie uses a great analogy here: you wouldn’t catch a fish with a strawberry, right? If the fish wants a worm, you give it just that!
So, if you want someone’s money, sell them something they need and adapt your offer to them! They don’t need anything? Well, what about their feeling of importance? Perhaps for them, importance is about being seen as influential or generous? This is for you to figure that out. This part of the book is very interesting and, again, packed with examples that I won’t mention here. As a matter of fact, you’ll see that the topic comes again and again in my book review because it is a cornerstone of Carnegie’s course. Anyway, if you need more, get the book!
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Theme #2: Ways to make people like you.
To gain influence, giving people what they want is not enough. After all, others could also give them just that. So, how do you win people to your cause? Here, Carnegie sees several key clues.
Be genuinely interested in people.
Here, Carnegie re-uses the previously mentioned tricks and adapts them to his needs. Again, to influence people, what matters is them. Not you. Them.
Hence, as simple as it sounds, the best way to reach people is to be attentive. Give them time, attention, help them. Be interested in them, genuinely. In reality, most people just don’t take the time to genuinely care and ask about others. So, if you do, people will notice.
Are you happy to be with someone? Give them smiles and make them feel how important they are for you right now. Because if you are having a discussion, they should be your core focus right now. Never met them before? Nevermind! Smile and start with remembering their name to make the relationship begin!
Again, Carnegie provides tons of examples. If you are interested, though, don’t just stick with my How to Win Friends and Influence People summary. As always on I’ll Make You Think Smart, my goal is to pick your curiosity to make you think differently, so get the book and read it!.
Make people talk about themselves.
Making people talk is another important tip of How To Win Friends and Influence People. Simply put, Carnegie’s point is that the ability to listen is what actually makes “a good conversationalist”. Why? Listening gives a feeling of attention and interest, but it is also a good way to find out what people need! And, again, knowing what people want is key. People are mainly interested in themselves, so listen!
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Theme #3: Getting people to think like you do.
Now that you know what people want, how do you rally them to your own cause? Again, Carnegie comes with simple but nonetheless smart ideas. And we like smart, don’t we?
Before we move on, though… I mentioned earlier in the brief overview part of my book review that at some point – and as most self-development books do – How To Win Friends and Influence People becomes repetitive. In the part of the book that deals with convincing people, the logic is actually the exact same as before. You use the feeling of importance as a basic element, and you build your focus on that.
Again, think in terms of human nature. People want to feel important and that leaves no room for arguments when it comes to convincing.
Arguments cannot be won. They create frustration, resentment, they will make you look stubborn, or they will upset those who genuinely believe their way of seeing things is right. It any case, an argument is a lose-lose situation. So, Carnegie says, instead of dealing with oppositions, try to create bridges. Find points you can build on, and move from there.
Whoever you talk to is never wrong. You want to make them agree with you, yes. But, no, they are not wrong. In fact, Carnegie says, the best way to make them sympathize with your idea is to start with a mea culpa and the idea that, maybe, you might be Hong in saying this or that.
Alternatively, asking questions is another way to rally people to your thinking. Are you wondering how to make friends and influence people? Make them important, be diplomatic, give them the ability to answer a question and bring their knowledge forward, but don’t make them feel wrong or you will lose them.
On the power of friendly words.
Carnegie also insists on the idea that a variety of friendly words needs to be included in your vocabulary. For instance, talking about an audience of ‘friends’ and affirming how ‘proud’ you are of the results achieved by a team is a great way of creating both a sense of importance and harmony. In fact, for an interesting example of how Rockefeller used to rally people, read the book for yourself!
Carnegie also includes ‘yes’ into his friendly vocabulary. Here, the idea is to make your interlocutors say the word as soon as possible in a discussion. Why? Well, because people who say ‘no’ unconsciously create barriers. In contrast, those who start saying ‘yes’ are easier to convince! Again, arguing never pays but bridge-building does.
Cooperation and crisis management.
How To Win Friends and Influence People also explains how to deal with crisis management. Here, Carnegie’s point is very simple: let people talk until they feel important enough to want to cooperate.
Again, listening is a strong to way to fulfill people’s human need for importance. You need to make them feel listened and cared for. Even more important, they need to know that their ideas have been heard and taken into consideration.
So? Cooperation and crisis management are all about your own ability to see things from people’s point of view. Winning friends and influencing people is a matter of importance, consideration, and sympathy. And you can build on that. The book is packed with examples borrowed from Carnegie’s classes, so if my book review is picking your curiosity get it and learn for yourself!
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Theme #4: Influence and leadership.
The last major theme is my How to Win Friends and Influence People summary is leadership. Winning friends is ultimately about getting a form of influence and leadership. Unsurprisingly, Carnegie largely keeps referring to the feeling of importance, and his suggestions are very much in line with everything we’ve said so far. The context is slightly different, though: good leaders don’t just make friends, they lead and get people somewhere. So, how do you become a leader?
You’ve read that before, I know. But if you’re seeing a redundancy here that means you’re getting comfortable with the process. And that’s what we want, right?
Anyway, to improve your leadership, you want to avoid… confrontation and arguments. Yes! Why? Because these only create resentment. Yes!
Jokes aside, confrontation is not only counter-productive, it will not help you lead. Don’t point at people’s faults and limitations. Instead, insist on their successes and potential to give them an importance, a role, a purpose. Criticism kills passion, and what you want is what Carnegie calls “splendid enthusiasm”!
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Again, you might be wrong, but…
As for making people agree with you, being a leader is about making people feel safe. So, instead of suggesting that they are wrong, Carnegie notes that it might be worth suggesting that (perhaps) you are not aware of everything even though you have a strong case.
No confrontation here. No resentment either. Because leaders never get anywhere with adverse feelings.
Carnegie applies the recipe again when he suggests that asking questions is a key skill when it comes to building leadership. Questions are not about orders, they do not create resentment, but they lead people towards one direction (X or Y) or another. For instance, if you give them a certain freedom to choose what you expect them to choose…
And the rest…
The other techniques mentioned in the previous themes also apply here. Insisting on progress and successes is more productive than emphasizing failures. It also helps in terms of reputation, etcetera, etcetera. Again, I’ll leave you to Carnegie’s book if you want to find out more.
The main conclusions
To wrap up my How to Win Friends and Influence People summary, I would say that Dale Carnegie comes to the following conclusions;
- How to win friends and influence people discusses the basic skills everyone needs to possess when it comes to social interaction.
- The key element in Carnegie’s opinion is to build on the feeling of importance every single individual needs to be given.
- Listening and giving people what they want is the best way to satisfy the feeling of importance. So, to make people like you or do something specific, you need to make sure they get what they want.
Food for thought!
As usual on I’ll Make You Think SMART, let me finish this article with some food for thought.
As mentioned at the beginning of this book summary, How To Win Friends and Influence People isn’t a recent book at all. Nonetheless, it still is very relevant because it is all about common sense basics. All that makes a lot of sense.
No, it doesn’t! I like being rude to people and making them rubbish always gives great results!
Jokes aside, the book is a nice read. In fact, this might be common sense, but would you have thought of that on your own? I bet the answer to that question is ‘no’. I didn’t, anyway.
Redundancy so you assimilate the process
Of course, the book is repetitive, but that repetition helps to make the connection. It helps to approach the concepts with different perspectives. By the same token, it also helps to get a new thinking process. Which is what you want, right?
In fact, at the beginning of the book, Carnegie notes that self-development only generates results provided that the reader is willing to commit and get involved.
So, he says, be willing to learn something, stop frequently to think and reflect on how you do, and be self-critical. Oh, and since we’re there, here’s two more ideas: record your triumphs (I love that one because we never do that) and read a book with a pen (which is what smart-readers do, actually).
Human intelligence skills (let’s think smart).
All in all, How To Win Friends and Influence People is a nice way of rethinking how we do with people and how we can improve our human intelligence skills. It is a great way of thinking smart, and that sounds great to me.
I’ve tried applying Carnegie’s advice, actually, and I’m already surprised with the results! Letting people speak feels good. Knowing what they want is a great way to know how to help them. It is, also, a nice way to feel good about yourself. Totally worth a try.
Carnegie’s book is also interesting for leadership purposes. Here’s the thing. We are all interested in leadership and there are plenty of books on the topic, right? Sure. But where should we start?
Denise Brosseau’s book on how to be a thought leader is a great idea if you ask me, and plenty of books are worth a read from a networking perspective too. The one thing you need before reading these books, however, is some food for thought to improve your basic human skills. Think about it. What is the point of using lots of energy building your profile and networking for hours if your human skills suck in the first place? There’s none!
That is where Carnegie’s book comes in handy. How To Win Friends and Influence People is about getting the basics of emotional intelligence. And we all ought to get the basics right. Just saying!
In my opinion...
A must-read book if you’re interested in self-development as the book will give you the basics for anything related to leadership, charisma development and so on.
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That’s it for now, but don’t stop here! My reading notes are meant to give you a very comprehensive overview of the books I read and some food for thought for the month. That’s why I’ll Make You Think SMART is the Kick-Ass Book Reviews blog after all!
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