5 Powerful Lessons from How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People isn’t your typical self-help book as it actually provides valuable advice.

Written by Dale Carnegie, the book offers countless practical tips to achieve exactly what its title suggests. It’s inspired the likes of Warren Buffet. And 80 years since its first publication, it’s still as relevant as ever.

The book provides the rules of a kind of ‘social jujitsu’ — 30 lessons for handling and influencing people gleaned from Carnegie’s many years interacting with folks from all levels of society.

Here’s five of the most powerful lessons, each with a quote from the book:

1. Smile and address people by their name

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

It seems simple and perhaps obvious, but many people fail to realise how much power a name and a smile holds. We’re all egocentric to some extent and hence love hearing our name. Especially when someone you rarely interact with or of high social status refers to you by your name. That they thought enough of you to remember your name makes you feel valued.

Not only that, but people are highly attuned to hearing their name, so using it will generally get their attention. Think about the times you mistakenly thought you heard your name and stopped everything you were doing to respond.

2. Be a good listener and 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.”

If you ask someone about their life, interests or family, they can talk for hours. Carnegie stresses the value of becoming a good listener and encouraging people to talk about themselves. As mentioned before, we’re all egocentric to some extent, and it’s genuinely flattering when someone takes an interest in us. It’s almost like giving a complement. And many people are yearning for someone who’ll listen.

3. Never bluntly tell people they’re wrong

“We must never tell people flat out that they are wrong. It will only serve to offend them and insult their pride. No one likes to be humiliated, we must not be so blunt.”

Everyone’s ego is susceptible to bruising. Think about the times you were told you were wrong, perhaps justifiably, and reactively became defensive. Maybe you later came around to admitting your wrongdoing, but the bruise to your ego remains given the manner in which your error was broached.

That’s why it’s important to…

4. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly

“No one likes to make mistakes, especially in front of others. Scolding and blaming only serves to humiliate. If we subtly and indirectly show people mistakes, they will appreciate us and be more likely to improve.”

One way to do this, explains Carnegie, is to suggest improvements, rather than point out a mistake. For instance, if critiquing someones work, you might say, “It looks great/it’s getting there and I think it would be even better if you [suggestion]. Note the use of “and” rather than “but”. “But” implies going in another direction, while “and” implies building or improving on what’s already done.

To soften the blow when broaching someone’s mistake, Carnegie also suggests first sharing how you have similarly erred in the past. Or if you’re partly to blame, admit it.

This leads us to a more general rule…

5. If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically

“Whenever we are wrong we should admit it immediately. When we fight we never get enough, but by yielding we often get more than we expected. When we admit that we are wrong people trust us and begin to sympathise with our way of thinking.”

Think about what happens when you refuse to admit wrongdoing (when you have genuinely erred). You get tense, defensive and perhaps even emotional. It can also make you seem petty or stubborn.

When you admit wrongdoing up front, you may sometimes feel tense or disappointed, but you also feel relief.

People will also appreciate your honesty, which often adds more to your credibility than your mistake detracts.