How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People was written by Dale Carnegie in 1936. A lot of people have spoken about this book and this book is also used by some schools as a part of their curriculum. This is also a book recommended to read for improving your sales skills. I wanted to read this book for a long time, and I am really glad that I finally got to read it. 

Everything in this world revolves around people. People who live happy lives or the ones who make the most money are the ones who know how to deal with people well. Dale Carnegie wanted to teach this to his students and was looking for a good book reference. He couldn’t find one and hence he wrote this book. 

Here are my notes from the book. If you are not able to read the entire book, you can check my notes. I hope you find them helpful.

PART I: The fundamental techniques in handling people

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain: Jon Wanamaker – founder of a retail chain once said – ‘I learned that it is foolish to scold’. Lincoln said ‘Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances’, Benjamin Franklin – ‘I will speak ill of no man and speak all the good I know of everybody’. 

Even if you interview people who have murdered they usually do not regret their mistake and would think what they did was right. – The best thing to do is is his first principle ‘Don’t criticize, condemn or complain’ 

Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation. Everyone likes to feel important. If you are able to appreciate people honestly it goes a long way. (If it is a dishonest appreciation, more of an appreciation to get favors, it is flattery and it is no good). One of the first people in American business to be paid over $1M as salary was Charles Schwab. He was hired as the President of US Steel by Andrew Carnegie. The reason he was paid $1M was his ability to deal with people and execute. 

Charles Schwabb said that the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement. Andrew Carnegie praised his associates publicly and privately. Andrew Carnegie knew how to work and surround himself with people smarter than him. This is his second Principle. Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation.

Arouse in the other person an eager want: The only way to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it. Henry Ford attributed his success to this quality. He said ‘ If there is 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’. 

People are more interested in themselves than in your product or service. We need to be addressing their needs. This will make them respond to you in a positive way. When you are selling something, or writing an email, talk about them, what problem your product or service will solve for them and not be writing about how great your product or service is. This is Dale Carnegie’s third Principle. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

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

PART II: Six ways to make people like you

One of the first principles Dale Carnegie talks about is to be genuinely interested in people. Ask them questions pertaining to their interest and they will love it. If we look at a group photograph, the first thing we zoom in on is ourselves. We don’t look at others. Making public speeches in the language of the country (e.g. learning Spanish and speaking in Spanish) gets you across to people easily.  

The second principle is to ‘Smile’. You go for a walk or run and you see someone, – you Smile. It costs nothing. However, it has a lasting impact. A Chinese proverb says ‘A man without a smiling face must not open a shop’

The key reason for Andrew Carnegie’s success is his ability to deal with people. He was called the Steel King, yet he himself knew little about how to manufacture steel. Lots of people working for him knew more about steel than him. One key trait to win friends and influence people is to remember names. People like to hear their own names. 

Carnegie wanted to sell steel rails to the Pennsylvania Railroad for which J. Edgar Thompson was the President. Andrew Carngie built a huge steel mill in Pittsburgh and called it ‘Edgar Thompson Steel Works’. Remembering people’s names is a great way to win friends. Yet, many people do not do it because they do not invest time in it. 

Writing people’s names and practicing helps. The Central Transportation company that Andrew Carnegie controlled was fighting for the same business which George Pullman owned. He decided to merge the two companies and George Pullman asked what would you name the new entity? – Andrew Carnegie without hesitation replied ‘ Pullman Palace Car Company’.  Franklin D. Roosevelt knew that one of the simplest ways of gaining goodwill was to remember names and make people feel important.  

A person’s toothache is more important to them than a famine that kills a million people. Listening to the person you are talking to and being genuinely interested in their stories is a great way to propel them forward. A department store in Chicago sold a damaged item (on which sales were final and no returns). The customer who bought it (spends thousands of dollars at the store) realized that the item was damaged and took it back. The store associate would not accept the return. Luckily, the manager was able to listen to the issue and offered a refund (money back) or another product. It is very important to listen to people and their stories. 

It is a great idea to talk to the other person about their interests instead of speaking about our interests. For example, if a person is interested in football, it is good to talk to them about football.

People crave appreciation. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely. George Eastman (Kodak fame) –- though was a multi-millionaire was proud of the chairs he bought (not worth more than a few dollars) because he painted them.  When James Adamon wanted to win Eastman’s business, James was talking about Eastman’s interests, and asked him questions about his early struggles, how he started the business, and more. He was curious to know more about Eastman.

Six Ways to make people like you:

  1. Be genuinely interested in other people. 
  2. Smile 
  3. Remember a person’s name (to the person it is 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.

PART III: How to win people to your way of thinking?

One thing Dale Carnegie recommends is not to argue. You cannot win an argument. You don’t have to tell a person wrong, win an argument, and feel good about yourself. You will lose to the person anyway because he does not feel good about being wrong. Avoid arguments as you would avoid earthquakes and rattlesnakes.  

Benjamin Franklin said ‘If you argue and rankle and contradict you may achieve victory sometimes, but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s goodwill.  Buddha Said ‘Hatred is never ended by hatred but by love’. 

Opera tenor Jan Peerce after being married for 50 years had this advice ‘When one yells, the other should listen — because when two people yell, there is no communication, just noise and bad vibrations’. Principle: The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.

The next principle is ‘Show respect for the other person’s opinion’ – Never say, “You are wrong”. Socrates said repeatedly to his followers in Athens ‘Only thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing’. Horace Greeley. A famous American editor during the Civil War disagreed violently with Lincoln’s policies. He also wrote a brutal, bitter, sarcastic and personal attack on Lincoln the night before he was dead. All this bitterness did not make Lincoln agree with Greeley. One of Dale’s course attendees Mr. Crowley has a problem. – The lumber he supplied was being rejected by the Inspector. It was an issue with the Inspector’s expertise. 

However, he did not say the Inspector was wrong. He listened to the inspector as he kept rejecting lumber and putting them aside. He agreed with the inspector and then slowly talked about the grading principles. The inspector ended up accepting the lumber. A big reason for this win is that Mr. Crowley did not say the Inspector was wrong.

When you know you are wrong, you should admit it. Rather than let somebody else criticize us, we can criticize ourselves and admit our mistakes. Your eagerness to criticize yourself will take the fight out. ‘Old Proverb’ – By Fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected’. 

A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall. Being friendly gets things accomplished more than being angry. For example, if you need your rent reduced, rather than saying we are vacating the place, it is better to say we really like the place (If you really do), and also be lavish in praise. Then ask for a reduction citing circumstances. It will do more good. Scolding parents, husbands, and wives need to realize that people don’t want to change their minds. They can’t be forced to make a decision. You can only win them in a friendly way. 

It is good to start with easy questions which will get a Yes. You ask questions which the person you are talking to will agree on, Get a Yes response first.

Be a good listener and let the other person do the talking. La Rochefoucauld, French Philosopher said, – ‘If you want enemies, excel your friends; but if you want friends, let your friends excel you.’

No one likes to feel that he or she is being sold. Letting the other person feel that the idea is his or hers not just works in business and politics, it works in the family as well. If you are trying to sell a product, provide them with what you have, ask for feedback, and make changes to the product to suit their needs. 

Twenty-five centuries ago, a Chinese Sage, Las Tse, said, “The reason why rivers and seas receive the homage of a hundred mountain streams is because they keep below them’

If the other person is wrong, don’t tell them that they are completely wrong. Look at it from their point of view. This is a very important skill. If your wife spends a whole lot of time on the lawn and it makes no difference to the lawn, do not criticize her or tell her that she is wrong. Instead look at it from her point of view, and see how you can partner with her to make the lawn better. It will improve family relationships and lead to a happy life (Story of Sam Douglas of Hemstead). The author recommends that if there is one thing we can take from this book is to look at things from the other person’s point of view.

The reason we are human beings and not rattlesnakes is because our parents were not rattlesnakes. It is important to sympathize with others. If a child shows his/her injury to us, it is because children expect us to sympathize with them. The same holds true for customer service as well. Sympathize with your customers. 

Instead of saying do not use this picture, you can say, please do not use this picture as my mother does not like it. It is appealing to the love and respect all of us have for motherhood.

We can learn from movies. Dramatizing your ideas is a good way to communicate things. E.g. using an object to communicate. Showcasing an actual product instead of just talking about it. A good example here would be Sir Winston Churchill who understood the power of symbolic acts. Churchill understood that simple gestures could have a huge impact.

The way to get things done says Charles Schwabb is to stimulate competition. Without a challenge, Theodore Roosevelt would never have been the President of the United States.  When Roosevelt was elected as the Governor of New York, they discovered he was no longer a resident of the State. He wanted to withdraw. Thomas Collier Platt, the then US Senator from New York threw a challenge to Roosevelt, ” Is the hero of San Juan Hill a Coward”? Roosevelt stayed in the fight. This challenge not only changed his life, it also changed the future of a nation. This is a good way to motivate and self-drive kids or young adults: throw a competition/challenge. 

How to Win People to your way of thinking:

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

PART III: Being a leader and effecting change? 

If you need to find fault in someone, do not start with the fault. Start with praise or honest appreciation. Then get to the feedback part. (Similar to a dentist who begins with Novocain (procaine). The patient still gets the drilling, but the Novocain is pain-killing. Begin with Praise and Honest Appreciation.

Charles Schwab was once touring his steel plant and he found a few of his employees smoking under a no-smoking sign. He did not reprimand them. Instead, he went near them, gave them a cigar, and also requested “I’ll appreciate it boys if you will smoke these on the outside”. Some sensitive people will resent any criticism. You can talk about their mistakes indirectly.

If you need to criticize someone, talk about your own mistakes first. If someone does not do a great job, (especially if they are new to the job), before you criticize them, talk about your own mistakes first. For example, if someone is starting their career, you can tell, ‘I have made the same or even worse mistakes when I started my career’. Then you communicate your point of view.

No one likes to take orders. Instead of ordering people who work with you or under you to do what you want, – ask them a question like ‘What do you think?’ 

If you are removing someone from the role, let the other person save face. Thank the person for their work –- tell them that it is just a lack of experience and not a lack of knowledge. Nurture them and see how they can be successful. Do not publicly reprimand or remove them

Instead of yelling at people, you can praise the little things they do. It will steer them to success. The same applies to kids. If kids don’t do well in a test, instead of discarding them or yelling at them, find the little things they did well and appreciate them. Praise the slightest improvement in children. This is a good way to steer them to success. There was a young man in London for whom everything was stacked against him. He mailed manuscripts to editors and finally one was accepted and he got a little praise back for his writing. This praise changed his life. His name is Charles Dickens. 

There was a kid in class who was very troublesome. The teacher took a different approach. ‘Tommy, I understand you are a natural leader, I am going to depend on you to make this class the best class in fourth grade this year’. The teacher gave the student a reputation of being a natural leader. 

There was a mechanic who was doing a good job in the past and did not do well later. Instead of reprimanding the mechanic, a better way to approach this is to talk about the good things the mechanic has done — you are a great mechanic (giving him/her the reputation) and then talk about the problem — the work being done does not reflect the skill. Give people a reputation and they will do their best to live up to it

Encourage people to do things and make the fault seem easy to correct. There was a kid (David) who was brain damaged and was very poor at studies. However, once the kid discovered the trick that learning was easy and fun it changed the kid’s life. This is because the kid’s dad (Charles M. Jones) encouraged every little improvement the child made, congratulated David, and made the fault easy to correct. This can play very well with coaches, teachers, and more. Every day, they made improvements in baby steps and it compounded. 

When Woodrow Wilson — the 28th President of the United State — invited William Gibbs McAdoo to become a member of his cabinet (the highest honor he could confer upon anyone), he still made it look like William Gibbs was doing Wilson a favor by accepting to be a member of the cabinet. 

He made him feel important.  Gunter Schmidt, one of the employees who took Carnegie’s courses, had a problem. One of his employees was not putting proper price tags on the shelves and it created a lot of issues. Mr. Schmidt appointed the employee as the Supervisor of Price Tag. The new responsibility and title changed the employee’s attitude completely.  The key is to make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest

Be a Leader and How to effect change?

  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. 
  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.

My take on this book: This book written in 1936 is relevant today. It is a great book to not just read, but practice. It not only helps in our professional lives, but also in our personal lives. This book contradicts or has a different take from some of our other learnings (e.g. Radical Candor), Comparing it to Netflix’s No Rules Rules – Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention.  

One more thing I found interesting in this book is that Dale Carnegie took references from ordinary people who took his classes. Instead of referencing just well-known people, he used examples of his students, ordinary everyday people, and more. There are instances where candid and transparent feedback will be appreciated. 

However even when it is not appreciated, Dale Carnegie’s methods will work great. It is good to have an understanding of different methods so you can apply the one you think works best based on the circumstances. I am also glad I was able to take notes and write down some of my key learnings. This serves as a great reference for the future.

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