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How to Win Friends and Influence People

By Dale Carnegie




First published in 1937, Dale Carnegie’s brand of motivational psychology was something new and very different. In the time of recovery from the Great Depression, opportunities were scarce, and his book offered readers a chance to make something of themselves using nothing more than their personality. He had heard John D Rockefeller state that the ability to handle people well was more valuable than all other skill sets put together, yet when he went looking for books on the subject, he found none. This led to gathering and reading everything available on human relations – including classical texts, magazine articles, philosophical works, family court judgements, and biographies of individuals recognised for excellence in leadership – and his ideas began to emerge from this research.


He first shared his thoughts in a short lecture, and then tested them out on those who attended his courses before eventually turning his findings and beliefs into the ‘principles’ presented in How to Win Friends and Influence People some 15 years later. His book caused quite a sensation at the time, becoming the biggest selling title in the self-improvement field, and while today’s world is very different to 1930s America, his wisdom remains relevant to anyone aiming to better themselves through improving their interactions with other people.

My Top 3 Takes from the Summary

  • The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to feel important. The person who really understands this craving for appreciation will also know how to make people happy.

  • There is a major difference between appreciation and flattery.

  • “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” If you want to be appreciated, feel important, and worthwhile, give that feeling to others first.



The Principles

The author includes many success stories relating to the great industrialists of his day. Charles Schwab was the first person to earn $1 million a year by running Andrew Carnegie's United States Steel Company, and it’s written that he said the secret of his success was being “hearty in his approbation and lavish in his praise” around those working under him. Appreciating and valuing employees is no secret in today’s management circles, but it was far from the norm in the 1930s. ‘Give honest and sincere appreciation' is one of the principles listed in the pages of the book, and this reflects the author’s stance on insincere flattery. He believes flattery to be nothing more than mimicking the vanities of the receiver, whereas sincere appreciation of someone's good points requires really seeing the person on the receiving end – in effect, it’s all about being able to see the beauty in people.

Another example shared by the author is the story of a man who attended one of his courses. This man was the boss of over 300 employees, but he seemed incapable of saying anything positive about any of them. After completing the course, and applying the ‘never criticise, condemn, or complain’ principle, this seemingly miserable boss now had the capacity to turn 314 employees into 314 friends, inspire a previously non-existent loyalty, and increase his profits into the bargain. On top of that, the author adds that the man’s family liked him more, he had more time for leisure, and he found his outlook on life 'sharply altered'.

It was these transformations in people that really excited the author, not just the beneficial career or financial effects his courses had on those who attended. He saw the desire to be important as one of the deepest urges in human nature, leading him to say that anyone who really understood this craving for appreciation would also know how to make people happy and how to draw the best out of others – so much so that “even the undertaker will be sorry when he dies.”

A taste of a select few of the principles put forward by the author is given below, and the wealth of wisdom in his words becomes evident.

Principle 1: Don’t Criticise, Condemn, or Complain

  • Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself.

  • Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s pride, hurts his sense of importance (everyone wants to feel important/wanted) and arouses resentment.

  • Instead of condemning everyone, try to figure out why they are how they are. “To know all is to forgive all”

  • “I will speak ill of no man… and speak all the good I know of everybody.”

  • Many great leaders stood out because of this principle. Men like Abraham Lincoln made it a point to never criticise anyone.



Principle 2: Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation

  • There is only one way to make someone do something, which is to make them want to do it.

  • Be anxious to praise and loathe to find fault.

  • There is a major difference between appreciation and flattery.

  • Don’t just tell someone they’re doing great, tell them HOW they’re doing great.

  • Tell others you appreciated something they did. For example, tell a chef of some restaurant that you really enjoyed his meal. Tell a hotel manager that your room was very well kept… etc.


Principle 3: Become Genuinely Interested in Other People


  • You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get people interested in you.

  • We like people who admire us.

  • “We are interested in others when they are interested in us.” – Publilius Syrus

  • Greet people with animation and enthusiasm.

  • Say hello to people in a way that shows you are pleased to talk with them.


Principle 5: Smile


  • Actions speak louder than words. A smile says, “I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.”

  • Smile, don’t give an insincere grin. Insincere grins are mechanical and resented. Give real, heart-warming smiles that uplift the room.

  • Smile even when on the phone. Your smile will come through the phone through your voice.

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

  • If you don’t feel like smiling, force yourself to smile. Act as if you were already happy, and that will tend to actually make you happy.

  • To someone who has seen a dozen people scowl, frown, or turn away their faces, your smile will be like the sun breaking through the clouds.


Principle 7: Be a Good Listener


  • If you want to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that people will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.


Principle 8: Talk in Terms of the Other Person’s Interests


  • The royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most.

  • Try and focus on what that person is interested in and talk about it. Theodore Roosevelt, before having a visitor in his office, used to study topics he knew his guest would be interested in discussing before they came over.


Principle 9: Make the Other Person Feel Important – and Do it Sincerely


  • Always make the other person feel important.

  • “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” If you want to be appreciated, feel important, and worthwhile, give that feeling to others first.


Principle 17: Try Honestly to See Things from the Other Person’s Point of View


  • Remember to not condemn someone for being wrong, even if they are. The wise try to understand why this person would say something like that.

  • Try to put yourself in that person’s shoes and try to figure out why they act how they do or why they would say something like they did.

  • Try to think through that person’s point of view and think about why someone should want to adapt to your point of view, and also how they would like to hear what you are saying.

Principle 25: Ask Questions Instead of Giving Direct Orders

  • Giving suggestions instead of giving orders saves a person’s pride and gives him a sense of importance. It encourages cooperation instead of rebellion.

  • Asking questions instead of ordering someone around can make an order seem more palatable and often stimulates the creativity of the person you ask. Example: “DO THIS!” versus, “Do you think it’d be a good idea to try this next time...?”


Principle 27: Praise the Slightest Improvement and Praise Every Improvement


  • Praise people for their improvements.

  • Words of praise can change someone’s life. Can you think of a moment where someone’s praise encouraged you and led you to become more successful?

  • Enrico Caruso, one of the greatest and most successful opera singers, was once told by a teacher when he was 10 that he couldn’t sing. His mother’s praise was what helped motivate him to continue trying anyway.

  • Give specific praise. Not just short flattery.

  • Abilities wither under criticism; they blossom under encouragement.


Principle 28: Give the Other Person a Fine Reputation to Live Up To


  • If you want to improve a person in a certain space, act as though that particular trait were already one of his or her outstanding characteristics.

  • Instead of firing someone for slipping up, first, try telling them what a valuable asset they have been in the past (if they truly have) and tell them they’ve been slipping up a bit lately and that you would like to work with them to help fix this problem.

  • Change the person’s attitude or behaviour by giving them a big reputation to lead up to. Example: Telling them they have the qualities of a leader and you can see it by their work ethic. Perhaps the person will start working harder after that to live up to that reputation.


Principle 30: Make the Other Person Happy About Doing the Thing You Suggest


  • Always make the other person happy about doing what you have suggested.

  • Be sincere. Do not promise anything you can’t deliver.

  • Know exactly what it is you want the other person to do.

  • Be empathetic. Ask yourself what it is the other person really wants.

  • Consider the benefits the person will receive from doing what you suggest.

  • Match those benefits to the person’s wants.

  • When you make a request, put it in a form that shows the other person how they will benefit from it.


The overriding message in the book is that success in life, professional or personal, is determined by the relationships you form with others. No one becomes a success on their own, it takes a network of people, and those people must like you before they’ll want to help you! The author hammers home the importance of always making other people feel special, offering six ways to ensure this happens. They are:


  • Become genuinely interested in other people.

  • Smile.

  • Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

  • Be a good listener. 

  • Talk in terms of the other person's interests.

  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.





Warren Buffet said, "This book changed my life." At the time of first publication, the ideas presented were revolutionary in that they made human relations much more understandable, and highlighted the importance of people skills. The world may have changed, but the importance of those very same people skills has not. The author reminds the reader that these fundamental skills can be learned and that none of us will truly influence another person until we, first of all, learn to like and respect them for who they are.



Bio of the Author


Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) was an American writer, lecturer, and developer of courses in self-development, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, 2006 version, ISBN: 978-0-091-90681-8 is available to buy at Amazon.


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