According to the NYTimes, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is “one of the world’s most phenomenal bestsellers”, and many think of it as the grandfather of all self-help books. It was published for the first time in 1936, and sold more than 15 million copies since.
The examples that Carnegie uses are laced with references and stories relevant to his day, including lessons from Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Civil War generals, English kings, John D. Rockefeller, and many others. And yet the book’s lessons and insights are relevant to any decade and any situation that involves people.
Today it’s common knowledge that “emotional intelligence” plays an important role in people’s success in their careers and personal lives, but Carnegie was the first to actually offer up a number of specific tools and techniques to help his readers understand the importance of social skills, and develop them.
Many of us are often too quick to criticize, condemn or complain about people; what Carnegie suggests is that we should try to empathize with people instead of judging them. Through empathy we can find ways to be kind to the others, and, as people naturally like others who treat them with kindness, they will respond positively to such an approach.
The methods Carnegie suggests are not about tricking others, or taking advantage of them – they are about focusing on others’ needs and wants. It’s a new way of life, not a bag of tricks; all of the principles taught in the book will only work when coming sincerely from the heart. The techniques are sometimes very obvious and simple – a smile, or a “thank you”, but we tend to forget about them much too often.
The chapters are basically pieces of advice, and Carnegie himself has summarized them phrase by phrase, so we present the chapters titles with the author’s summaries.
Section 1: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
- “If You Want To Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over The Beehive” – Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
- The Big Secret of Dealing With People – Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- “He Who Can Do This Has The Whole World With Him. He Who Cannot Walks A Lonely Way” – Arouse in the other person an eager want.
Section 2: Six Ways to Make People Like You
- Do This and You’ll Be Welcome Anywhere – Become genuinely interested in other people.
- A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression – Smile.
- If You Don’t Do This, You Are Headed For Trouble – Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- An Easy Way to Become a Good Conversationalist – Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- How to Interest People – Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
- How to Make People Like You Instantly – Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
Section 3: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
- You Can’t Win An Argument – The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
- A Sure Way of Making Enemies – and How to Avoid It – Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
- If You’re Wrong, Admit It – If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
- A Drop of Honey – Begin in a friendly way.
- The Secret of Socrates – Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
- The Safety Valve in Handling Complaints – Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
- How to Get Cooperation – Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
- A Formula That Will Work Wonders for You – Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
- What Everybody Wants – Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
- An Appeal That Everybody Likes – Appeal to the nobler motives.
- The Movies Do It. TV Does It. Why Don’t You Do It? – Dramatize your ideas.
- When Nothing Else Works, Try This – Throw down a challenge.
Section 4: Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
- If You Must Find Fault, This Is the Way to Begin – Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
- How to Criticize – and Not Be Hated for It – Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
- Talk About Your Own Mistakes First – Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
- No One Likes to Take Orders – Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
- Let the Other Person Save Face – Let the other person save face (let them correct the mistake if they can, or at least give them the opportunity to do so)
- How to Spur People On to Success – Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
- Give a Dog a Good Name – Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
- Make the Fault Seem Easy to Correct – Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
- Making People Glad to Do What You Want – Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.
I truly found this book oddly entertaining. Through the examples of many famous and successful people throughout history, this book teaches us how to work with others and be nice. I sincerely believed that my ability to effectively communicate and work with other people improved exponentially through reading this book and putting what I learned into action.
I was really surprised as to how much this book matters and how much I learned by reading it. Yes, some of the advice may be obvious, but it brings the correct way in which to interact with others to the forefront of the mind and that’s why it’s so valuable.
In 30 eye-opening chapters, Dale Carnegie lays out a method for increasing your likability, more effectively leading others and winning people over to your point of view. Each section is a key pillar to a shift in both your actions and your mindset that can take even the most socially inept and help them become a great leader.
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