Review of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People

Written by Dale Carnegie, published in 1936, I wrote this review in the late 1990s…

The classic self-improvement book. First published in 1936 with page formatting better suited to learning than most books available today, yet is crammed full of practical advice, techniques and principles that help you get the most from life.

A fundamental tenet of this book is an idea that is useful to believe even if it isn’t true: human behaviour consists of habits which may be changed.

Dale Carnegie organized this book into five sections:

  • Section 1: Fundamental Principles in Handling People
  • Section 2: Ways to Make People Like You
  • Section 3: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
  • Section 4: Organisational Leadership
  • Bonus: Become a public speaker

Section 1: Fundamental Principles in Handling People

By adhering to the “Fundamental Principles in Handling People”, one will be better able to interact with others in a positive fashion.

We must try to remember that everybody else thinks in a similar way to us, so when another person acts in a way we disagree with, we should remember that we may have acted in a similar way had we been given their experiences, expressed by Carnegie as Principle 1: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. Carnegie feels that such an attitude “breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.”

Spend time acknowledging that others have made a positive contribution to the world. Make the effort to look for the best elements of another person’s performance, and comment sincerely upon them. Principle 2: Give honest and sincere appreciation.

We want what we want because we believe it will advantage us. Other people think the same way, so the easiest way to persuade a person to behave in the way we desire is to have them see the advantages for them. Before you tell somebody what to do, think to yourself: “How can I make this person want to do it?” Principle 3: Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Section 2: Ways to Make People Like You

The second part of the book deals with ways to make people like you. Rapport describes how well two people get along. One way to build rapport quickly and easily is to make the other person feel that they are special. Smile, remember their name and talk in their terms, and we convey that our interests are secondary to theirs – the virtue of humility. We must seek to make the other person feel important by sincerely giving credit where it is due, listening and encouraging others to talk about themselves and genuinely being interested in other people. People need to be valued in the eyes of others. By focusing our attention upon others, our importance to those people will be increased immeasurably.

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

“How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking”, and is focused on pointing out many of the disfunctional and counter-productive habits that people adopt when attempting to persuade others. Strive to work together to solve disputes. Do not condemn another person’s beliefs, as they believe in theirs as strongly as you believe in yours. When you are wrong, change position. People don’t like to argue with friends, so try to jump onto their side of the fence. Reach agreement before seeking differences – this will make agreement easier by having a momentum of ‘yeses’ behind you. Make the other person feel valued by letting them say what they think – give them a fair hearing. There is no need to grandstand when influencing others, so allow the credit to go to other people. Each of these principles will, when utilized, improve your persuasiveness as quickly as you use them.

Section 4: Organisational Leadership

It is one thing to win friends and influence people on a personal level, it is another maintain a position of authority. It is not necessary to be a CEO to be a leader: we will always influence other people to some extent; whether we exert a positive or a negative influence is up to us.

At an organizational level, a slightly different emphasis must be taken. Change without offending or arousing resentment. Strive to paint your side as the manifestation of their values. Force others to notice you by being extraordinary. Competition motivates others to produce their best work.

A good leader is considerate of the feelings of others. She will strive to build the self-image of her colleagues; the easiest way to implement this notion is by employing a structure of correction:

Firstly, speak of your own mistakes,

Secondly, complimenting their good works;

Finally by criticizing the error at hand indirectly.

This structure will allow the message to be conveyed with whatever strength is desired, while hurting as few feelings as possible. Since a damaged pride will produce lower quality output, allow the other person’s pride to escape unharmed when they have made a blunder.

Coaching others to perform at their best is an art form now days, though many of the principles existed in Carnegie’s time: Guide the actions of others by bringing the advantages of your intention to their attention in such a light as they will be united behind you, rather than demanding blind obedience; think of any change as an easy process; encourage any positive steps made by the other person.

The final message in Carnegie’s book is that the ability to speak is a shortcut to distinction. You will be rewarded beyond your efforts if you are the person who presents those efforts to others by speaking to a group.