How to Win Friends and Influence People Lessons

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the most important How to Win Friends and Influence People lessons? How can you apply them to your life and relationships?

The How to Win Friends and Influence People lessons are about communication and making each conversation as effective and productive as possible. In this book, you’ll learn how to avoid arguments, convince people, and how to get people to like you.

Keep reading for the top How to Win Friends and Influence People lessons and what they mean.

How to Win Friends and Influence People Lessons and How to Get the Most Out of the Book

These How to Win Friends and Influence People lessons aren’t easy, but you can get the most out of them by following these tips. Changing your behavior is hard. No one read the 10 commandments and suddenly stopped coveting things. When you’re in the thick of an argument, you totally forget that you’re supposed to see the other person’s viewpoint, because Becky is being a real nuisance and how can she possibly bel ieve what she’s saying.

Here’s advice from Dale Carnegie on how to get the most out of the How to Win Friends and Influence People lessons:

  • The principles are best applied with sincerity. Be genuinely interested in other people and believe they have something to teach you. Be genuinely interested in helping others achieve their interests. Without this sincerity, you will feel disingenuous to others.
  • Keep remembering how important these principles are to you. “My success depends to no small extent on how I deal with people.”
  • Changing your behavior is hard. You have to review your notes and keep practicing these principles over and over until it becomes second nature.
  • Like a swear jar, have other people monitor you and require you to pay up whenever you violate a principle.
  • Review your personal interactions and remember what you could have done better.

Checklists for Success

As you go through the How to Win Friends and Influence People lessons, consider these checklists.

Checklist for Arguments

  • Control your temper. You can measure the size of a person by what makes her angry.
  • Instead, approach with an open-minded view: “I may be wrong. I frequently am. And if I’m wrong, I want to be put right. Let’s examine the facts.”
  • Praise the other person for a trait that will help resolve the argument – eg their patience, open-mindedness, fairness, and receptivity to new facts.
  • Understand that the other person has a valid view of the situation. If you were born as them with their brain and undergoing their experiences, you would by definition feel the same way they do. Your job is to understand what led them to believe what they believe.
  • Express sympathy for their situation. “You have the absolute right to be upset. If I were in your shoes, I would be too.”
  • Listen first. Give your opponents a chance to talk through. Do NOT interrupt.
  • Ask people where they feel the problems are. Ask for their opinions on how best to proceed. Ask lots of questions instead of stating imperatives.
  • Look for areas of agreement. Try to build bridges of understanding. Talk about common goals, and what you agree on.
  • When ready, ask a series of questions that will lead them independently to your conclusion. Start with undeniable areas of agreement, then build in layers to your ultimate point in terms they will agree with.
  • Emphasize how your position serves the other person’s interests and incentives.
  • Volunteer the downsides of your approach, and ask how they feel about it. They will tend to moderate your position, and talk themselves out of it.
  • Thank your opponents sincerely for their interest. Anyone who takes time to disagree with you is interested in the same things you are. Think of them as people who really want to help you.

Checklist for Giving Feedback and Improving Behavior

  • Praise and appreciate constantly, on the background, without asking for anything. This neutralizes any future sting of feedback.
  • When introducing a point of feedback, start by praising other specific things that were done well.
  • Introduce the point of improvement.
  • Talk about your own related mistakes, suggesting you know how difficult the task can be.
  • Ask questions instead of giving orders. What do you think about this? Do you think that would work? Ask for suggestions on how to improve things, to get them to have a personal stake in their own ideas.
  • Give the person a fine reputation to live up to. Act as though the trait were already one of her outstanding characteristics.
  • Make the fault seem easy to correct. Make clear it is not a matter of ability or talent. 
    • She already has the underlying skills, she just needs a bit of practice. 
    • Connect the improvement to something else she has already done.
  • Message the improvement in terms of the person’s own interests. Target what they care about (doing better work; getting off of work earlier; ascending in her career).

These How to Win Friends and Influence People lessons can help you learn about the book and its principles.

How to Win Friends and Influence People Lessons

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Here's what you'll find in our full How to Win Friends and Influence People summary:

  • The 6 ways to make people like you
  • How you can give feedback to others and improve their behavior
  • An essential checklist for handling arguments in a productive way

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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