How to Win Friends & Influence People – 70 Years Later (Part 1)

March 22, 20112 Comments

Over 70 years and 15 million copies after it’s initial publication, Dale Carnegie’s legendary How to Win Friends and Influence People is perhaps even more salient today than in 1937. In the era of the quick email, the frantic text, or the truncated tweet, it is easy to forget the importance of people skills in favor of efficiency.

People skills have not, however, gone the way of the typewriter – they never will. Knowing how to conduct yourself in a manner that makes people want to work with you will not only make your life happier; as Generation Y enters the workforce, with the entitlement, selfishness, and lack of social graces we have become known for¹, it is a skill that can set you apart from and ahead of your peers.

Now, before I go and give you the milk without the cow, I will say this. If you have not read this work in it’s entirety, you are neglecting to invest in some of the most important facets of your skill set. This is a book I read at least every other year, and one that I have given to nearly every employee I have ever hired. It’s barely 300 pages. Sit down on a Sunday and read it. You will thank me later.

Now, without further shaming, I give you Part 1 (out of 3) of the takeaways I personally have benefitted from in both my personal and professional life, with brief summaries. For the full impact, you’ll have to pick up a copy of the book.

Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain

Nothing good comes out of negativity. In this first chapter, Carnegie will give you a number of powerful tools to point out when something could be improved, and how to prompt action in a much more amicable way. The basic rule: avoid the 3 C’s at all cost, find other ways to express concern.

Give honest and sincere appreciation

Imagine your life and your job without the people around you. Now think about how grateful you are to have them. Do they know? As I mentioned in my earlier guide to business etiquette, it is imperative that you celebrate and appreciate the people you live, work, and play with.

Be lavish in your approbation and hearty in your praise.

If you are sincere and honest, never fake or phony, there is no such thing as showing too much appreciation or admiration for others. Compliment people’s kindness, their work, and their skill in a charismatic and warm way.

Arouse in the other person an eager want

This is more of a negotiation tactic, but also pertains to leaders, who often need others to do X, Y, or Z for them. People act on their own interest. Align you interests with those of others – i.e. make clear that working towards your goal serves their own goals as well – and you will be rewarded with dedicated and steadfast effort.

Become genuinely interested in other people

That’s right. How to Win Friends is not a handbook for manipulation. Is is a handbook for improving your relationships and rapport with other people. You simply cannot sustain either of those things without a genuine concern and regard for people. Invest your emotions and your time in people’s lives, their struggles, their successes, and their sources of joy. This is what being a genuine and compassionate person is all about.


Deep within the circuitry of our brains lies the limbic system. This part of us has evolved over millions of years and is adept at understanding, evaluating, and expressing emotion. Smiling will not only convey your warm, cheerful, and approachable nature, but will actually improve your own mood. Being pleasant is one of the most basic, but most overlooked steps to getting along better with others, and smiling is the easiest step in the right direction.

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

Many people have a difficulty remembering names, and many more fail to use them. When you refer to someone by name in conversation, you acknowledge their importance and the familiarity between the two of you. Carnegie offers numerous examples of how you should work a person’s name into sentences. Greet someone by name, rather than just “Hi.” Cut down on the use of pronouns in favor of first names.

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

I touched on this a bit in my earlier post, but it is worth repeating. First and foremost, listening makes you a much more likable and pleasant person to be around – this much should be obvious. What’s more, the logical byproduct of listening is information. Information is power. The more you know about others, the more you understand them and their needs, and the more you can tailor your behaviors and actions in a way that works for them. For instance, if you learn that a coworker recently put down her beloved pet poodle, you can go around the office and have a card signed by the staff, or, at the very least, keep that story about your own dog to yourself for a while. Additionally, this type of information can be used to benefit everyone, once it is brought to light. Again, this is not about manipulation, but if you learn that one of your employees volunteered to coordinate a huge dinner party at her last job, you now know who to go to when you need catering recommendations for the company retreat.

Talk in terms of other people’s interests.

This is a big one. When pitching an idea you wish to see implemented, don’t even bother explaining how it will benefit you personally. Instead, figure out how the desired course of action will benefit others involved, and focus on maximizing and emphasizing those benefits. If you can’t think of any, it’s a bad idea, or is too self-serving to be considered.

That concludes Part 1. It will probably take another 2 blog posts to flush out all of the many wisdoms in Carnegie’s work, but it will take you at least a few months to really digest and practice these skills, so I suppose I’m not under the gun!

Thanks, as always, for reading, commenting, and sharing!


¹ No harm intended to my fellow GenY-ers. I know many of us are not bratty little tyrants, and I have worked and studied with a number of exceptional and professional 20-somethings. But let’s face it. The vast majority of our age group is, well, not so much.