“How to Win Friends & Influence People” – A Summary

Perhaps THE best known self-help book of all time is the 1936 classic How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. If you don’t own it, you should. And you should read it all the way through. But that won’t stop us from providing this summary as a bit of a shortcut.

While some of the language and style of writing in How to Win Friends & Influence People is dated, the concepts are not. In fact, the main concept is eternal, some call it the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That said, our super-short summary of How to Win Friends is this: Make people feel important, make them feel listened to, make them feel like you think they are pretty darn great. This is the best way for you to get what you want and to have people like you in return.

Really, that’s it. But that wouldn’t be much of a book. So, below we offer a longer summary, that maybe shows you how to do those things. In the book, Carnegie offers a range of specifics, which he calls Principles. He divides the book into sections with Principles under each section. For this summary, we are simply listing the principles without section headings, along with a few bullets points after each for a bit more detail. You will notice that many of these principle overlap each other.

Principle: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

  • Lead with kindness (even when you’re hopping mad).
  • No one likes to be criticized. Hold your tongue whenever possible.
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you feel if you were on the receiving end of the words or actions you are directing at someone else?

Principle: Give honest and sincere appreciation

  • Make people feel important; everyone wants to feel honored and respected.
  • Give people real praise as often as possible, but don’t overdo it.

Principle: Arouse in the other person an eager want

  • Think about what other people want: it makes them happier, it makes them like you better, it gets them to do what you want.
  • Giving people incentive to do something will get them to do it much faster than commanding it.

Principle: Become genuinely interested in other people

  • We like to be liked — that’s why almost everyone loves dogs.
  • Be interested in others and try to really like them; you are likely to get these feelings reciprocated.

Principle: Smile

  • People don’t gravitate toward people with scowls on their faces.

Principle: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

  • Remembering a name shows that the other person is important in your eyes.

Principle: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

  • Most people’s favorite subject is themselves.
  • Listening to people makes them feel important and respected, which makes them like you.

Principle: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests

  • Close to the previous principle: talk about what other people want to talk about and not what you want to talk about as much as possible. Again, it makes people like you.

Principle: Make the other person feel important — and do it sincerely

  • Notice a pattern here? This principle overlaps with many already mentioned.

Principle: The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it

  • You rarely win friends by arguing.

Principle: Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”

  • You rarely win friends by proving you are right and they are wrong.

Principle: If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically

  • The other side of the previous two principles: People like and respect people who can admit their errors.

Principle: Begin in a friendly way

  • You’ll never get your way by starting off combative.
  • People are more likely to come around to your way of thinking if you seem reasonable and friendly.

Principle: Get the other person saying “yes, yes’ immediately

  • Phrase your conversation in ways that are likely to get a “yes” from the other person.
  • One “yes” usually leads to more, making it more likely you will get your way.

Principle: Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.

  • Once again, listening and encouraging others to talk gets you more than when you do all of the talking.

Principle: Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers

  • Another offshoot of giving other people a sense of importance.
  • People are likely to do what you want them to do if you give them the credit for the idea.

Principle: Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view

  • Nothing will make people dig their heels in against you more than if they feel you are not listening to their point of view.

Principle: Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires

  • Similar to the previous principle: let people know you see their point of view, even if you disagree.

Principle: Appeal to the nobler motives

  • It is easier to get your way by making the other people feel like they are doing a good deed, not just doing a thing that you want.

Principle: Dramatize your ideas

  • It’s easier to convince people of something if you present it in a unique way.

Principle: Throw down a challenge

  • Sort of a reverse psychology principle. If you can’t get your way using any other method, make the thing you want look like a challenge — and maybe a challenge that the other person can’t quite handle.

Principle: Begin with praise and honest appreciation

  • Again, you are more likely to get the outcome you want if you lead with appreciation for the other person.

Principle: Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.

  • Sometimes when you need to change someone’s behavior, the strategy is to set a good example or subtly point out something wrong without connecting it to that person.

Principle: Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.

  • Discussing your faults makes it easier for people to handle it when you are forced to point out something they have done wrong.
  • It shows you don’t think they are incapable in general, but instead have just made a mistake and/or did not yet have the experience to realize their error.

Principle: Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.

  • “Do you think this might work better?” instead of “This is wrong. Change it.”

Principle: Let the other person save face.

  • If someone has done something wrong or been humbled, find a way to keep that person from feeling humiliated.

Principle: Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

  • Encouragement tends to lead to better performance in the future.

Principle: Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.

  • People tend to live up to the expectations of others. You can change a person’s performance by letting them know you believe in them, even if their previous reputation suggests they can’t or won’t perform well.

Principle: Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.

  • Similar to the points above — make people feel like they are very capable of changing for the better or learning a new skill.

Principle: Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

  • Similar to previous principles, make people feel important when you are trying to steer them in a certain direction.