In 1859, a little-known Scottish government reformer named Samuel Smiles published his masterpiece, titled “Self-Help.” The book – dubbed “the bible of mid-Victorian liberalism” – made him a celebrity overnight and gave the name to a new genre of books written with the explicit intention of helping their readers change their habits, solve personal problems, or improve some aspects of their professional life. However, the genre was on the margins of the mainstream until American lecturer Dale Carnegie took writing self-help books seriously and made it his full-time job.
Published in 1936, his magnum opus “How To Win Friends and Influence People” is one of the ultimate bestsellers in history, having sold over 30 million copies across the globe. The fact that it was also included in Time magazine’s list of the “top 20 most influential books ever written speaks volumes about its importance and timelessness. So, get ready to discover what all the fuss is about and prepare to learn how to make people like you and how to win them to your way of thinking!
Three fundamental techniques in handling people
“As much as we thirst for approval, we dread condemnation,” said once Hans Selye, a pioneering Hungarian Canadian endocrinologist and the man who first demonstrated the existence of biological stress. This idea lies at the foundation of Carnegie’s holy trinity of people-handling techniques, which, in turn, are the basis of his entire philosophy and worldview.
- Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. In the 1950s, American psychologist and behaviorist B. F. Skinner proved, through experiments, that an animal punished for bad behavior is a far worse apprentice than one rewarded for good performance. The same holds true for humans: criticism demoralizes and disheartens. Criticizing or condemning someone for anything will rarely result in the behavior you desire to stimulate – in fact, it will probably result in the opposite effect.
- Give honest and sincere appreciation. If criticism discourages us from doing things, praises inspire us to get better. Of course, we’re not talking about flattery – that’s even worse than criticism. However, when honest, appreciation brings out the best in us. So, be sincere, particular, and loving in your praises. And don’t be sparse!
- Arouse in the other person an eager want. To get what you want from someone else, put yourself in their shoes, and see what they want. Next, find a way to combine their wants with your desires. Handling people is all about finding the win-win arrangement in all situations – even if your victory is the only one premeditated.
Six ways to make people like you
When the New York Telephone Company made a study of telephone conversations to find out which word was the most frequently used, they weren’t surprised by the results: it was the personal pronoun “I.” It was used 3,900 times in 500 telephone conversations, about eight times in each! However, if you want to make other people like you, you must stop talking about yourself – and start talking about them. Here’s how:
- Become genuinely interested in other people. “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them than in two years by making them interested in you,” writes Carnegie. So, switch between pronouns: drop the “I” and adopt the “you” right away!
- Smile. Smiles cost nothing but create much. In other words, they enrich those who receive them without impoverishing those who give them. Moreover, even though they are fleeting, the memory of them can last forever. The second principle of making people like you is the simplest: smile – and do this as often as possible.
- Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. You can make anyone feel valued and important by simply remembering their name.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. Much more than an entertaining conversation partner, people want someone who’ll just listen to them. Remember: talking exposes disinterest in other people; listening shows that you care about them.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interest. The night before the arrival of any visitor, Theodore Roosevelt would read up on the subject in which he knew his guest was particularly interested. He knew, like all leaders, that “the royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most.”
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. “The unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel themselves superior to you in some way,” writes Carnegie. “A sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely. […] The life of many a person could probably be changed if only someone would make him feel important.”
Twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking
According to 17th-century English poet and satirist Samuel Butler, “a man convinced against his will – is of the same opinion still.” To win people to your way of thinking, you must find a method by which you’ll change their minds without them knowing. These 12 pieces of advice should help:
- The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. Avoid arguments at all costs: even if you win them, you will probably end up losing the other person.
- Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.” Announcing to someone “I am going to prove so-and-so to you” is tantamount to saying: “I’m smarter than you are.” No one likes to hear that. As Lord Chesterfield said once to his son: “Be wiser than other people if you can, but do not tell them so.” Instead, use a little diplomacy. Or a lot.
- If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. When you’re right – you should try to win people gently and tactfully to your way of thinking, but when you’re wrong – you should never defend yourself. Just admit it immediately.
- Begin in a friendly way. Remember what Abraham Lincoln said: “A drop of honey can catch more flies than a gallon of gall.” People are receptive only when you’re friendly.
- Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes. The Chinese have an ancient proverb: “He who treads softly goes far.” Socrates knew this better than anyone. His whole philosophical technique – now called the Socratic method – was based upon winning one admission after another from his disputant by way of thousands of small, gentle questions necessitating “yes” responses. Follow his lead.
- Let the other person do a great deal of the talking. Winning people to your way of thinking is rarely about giving them answers – it’s almost always about asking them questions. Let them talk themselves out. After all, they probably know more about their problems than you do.
- Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers. We are programmed to like better self-discovered ideas. So, don’t ram your opinions down the throats of others: make suggestions and allow others to think they arrived at your idea themselves.
- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view. Try honestly to put yourself in the position of the other. Even if they are wrong, they must think the way they do for a reason. Always look for that reason.
- Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires. If there’s one magic phrase that could mend all ills and problems in a discussion, it’s this: “I don’t blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you, I would undoubtedly feel just as you do.” Use it.
- Appeal to the nobler motives. Everyone is the hero of their own life story. Even the most immoral people believe they do things for noble reasons. Appeal to these motives when you talk to anyone – they are your best chance to convince a person to follow your ideas.
- Dramatize your ideas. “Merely stating a truth isn’t enough,” remarks Carnegie. “The truth has to be made vivid, interesting, dramatic. You have to use showmanship. The movies do it. Television does it. And you will have to do it if you want attention.”
- Throw down a challenge. Give someone a task, and they will probably do it reluctantly; give them a challenge, and they will often rise to meet it. People love games and a chance to prove their worth, to excel, to win.
Nine ways to lead and change people
A combination of charm and the right number of compliments can help you change anyone without giving offense or arousing resentment. And that’s what good leadership is all about! Master it through the following nine steps:
- Begin with praise and honest appreciation. Nobody likes to hear unpleasant things about what they do – even when they are wrong. So, start with praise and appreciation: it is always easier to listen to unpleasant things afterward.
- Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly. Be subtle when pointing out other people’s mistakes – never direct. You’re a guide, not a dictator. Also, heed that wonderful Roman saying: praise in public, criticize in private.
- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person. Nothing can help convince somebody to change their behavior as admitting one’s own mistakes – even when one hasn’t corrected them.
- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders. No one likes to take orders. Suggestions – now, that’s an entirely different thing! They encourage cooperation instead of rebellion – and boost others’ confidence rather than demolishing it.
- Let the other person save face. By causing someone to lose face, you destroy that person’s ego. And nobody likes a dent in their ego. “Hurting a man in his dignity is a crime,” wrote French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Don’t forget that.
- Praise every improvement. “Abilities wither under criticism,” says Carnegie, but “they blossom under encouragement.” People love to be complimented. So, praise them if you truly want them to improve at something.
- Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. Give a dog a bad name and hang him – says an old English proverb. Its meaning is that if you taint one’s reputation, they will decline and suffer hardships because of it. Carnegie suggests doing the opposite: giving the dog a good name and rejoicing as he tries to live up to it!
- Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct. Tell someone they are stupid or dumb at something, and you have destroyed all incentives for progress. But present the disadvantage as something easily fixable, and the person will be encouraged to improve.
- Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest. If you want to be a good leader and influence people, you must try to make people glad to do what you want them to do. Otherwise, they won’t do it.
“How To Win Friends and Influence People” is the most successful and the most influential self-help book ever written. You shouldn’t need any other reason to read it.
People are not creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion, bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity. Win them by being sincere, empathetic, friendly, and encouraging.