How You Can Befriend Anyone: Five Principles By Dale Carnegie

Adam Rybko
The Startup
Published in
6 min readNov 23, 2020


In this article, I compiled the five most influential principles of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and how you can use them to get ahead in life [1].

Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash

Dale Carnegie’s wisdom has served as the stepping stone to greatness for several of the most successful people in the world. In the HBO documentary Becoming Warren Buffett, the Berkshire Hattaway Chairman praises the Carnegie courses saying “If I wouldn’t have done that, my whole life would have been different” [2].

Buffett goes on to say that Carnegie’s course cured his stage fright and that, until this day, this public speaking course certificate hangs on his office wall. Other celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Chuck Norris also say they greatly benefitted from Carnegie’s teachings [3].

I compiled five of Carnegie’s most impactful principles that you can use to make friends and influence people, as well as how I benefited from these principles myself.

1) Don’t argue, you always lose

You read that correctly, you can never win an argument! To understand why this is the case, let me give you a real-life example.

A few months ago, I was arguing about the long-term effects of minimum wage floors with a colleague of mine. After we fervently hurled facts and numbers at each other’s heads for 40 minutes, it was clear that I had “won” the argument.

I returned home with a feeling of accomplishment, trusting that my colleague would appreciate that I showed him “the right way” to approach the issue. This scenario repeated itself a few times. But every time, I left the restaurant with that same feeling of accomplishment.

Can you guess what happened after that? My colleague started canceling our brunches more and more often until we stopped meeting for brunch altogether.

Because my colleague did not “win” any of our arguments, he started to feel resentment towards me. He did not like being told he was wrong and he certainly did not appreciate having to admit defeat every week. As his resentment grew, we started spending less time together.

The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, pause, and think for a second. What would have been the right approach to take?

Imagine that you and your supervisor are discussing whether the sky is blue. To your surprise, your supervisor tells you that the sky is, in fact, red. Never say “you’re wrong”. Instead, simply express that he made a really good point of which you were not aware, and that, while you previously thought the sky was blue, you will most certainly look into your supervisor’s argument.

You will allow your supervisor to experience a feeling of accomplishment. By avoiding the argument, the other person has grown to like you more.

Principle one: The only way to truly win an argument, is to avoid it. Gracefully accept the other parties rebuttals and move on.

2) Talk in terms of the other person’s interest

I. According to Carnegie himself, I, is the most used word in the English language [1]. It’s everyone’s favorite word. You can use this to your advantage.

The first time I asked for feedback on one of my rejected job applications, I asked the recruiters a few questions: What did I do wrong? What can I do to improve so that I can do better next time? I wanted my next job application to be better. Sure enough, I never received a response.

Notice how, after the recruiter finished reading this email, he or she had absolutely no incentive to give me feedback. What was in it for them?

The second time I asked for feedback, I decided to keep this question in mind. I asked the lead recruiter: What can I do to better conform to the company’s values? What were the recruiters looking for in a candidate? How could I serve the firm’s needs better? Four days later, I received a response with detailed feedback.

“If you want a person to help you, always ask yourself this question. What is in it for them” — Dale Carnegie, 1964

Principle two: Just like you are trying to further your own interests, so are other people. Remember to emphasize how the other person will benefit.

3) Listen

Can you guess what everyone’s favorite topic is? No, it's neither politics nor astrology. According to Carnegie, everyone’s favorite topic is talking about themselves [1]!

You might have caught yourself waiting for your turn to speak, rather than listing when talking to someone. While the other person is telling you about his long-awaited city trip to Tokyo, you are mapping out the story of the time you were in New York in your head. As soon as the other person stops talking, you can finally blurt out your well-rehearsed response.

Except, the other person is likely much more interested in telling you about that Tokyo trip, rather than listening to you talk about your New York trip.

Last week, I met a Cyber Security consultant on the train. For 3 hours, he excitedly told me about all the responsibilities he had and how important his job was for the firm’s safety.

When we parted ways, he asked for my contact, emphasizing how much he enjoyed our conversation and how he would really like to do this again sometimes. Conversation? I barely spoke a word. Yet, the consultant was overjoyed!

The next time someone is talking to you about their interests, ask follow-up questions, and express that you are excited to hear more. The next time, people will come to you, remembering what a superb conversationalist you are.

Principle three: The next time you are talking to someone, smile, and try to really listen.

4) Give people a reputation to live up to

We all know that someone’s current performance shapes other people’s expectations in the future. What if I tell you, that reputation can also shape performance.

When I was tutoring microeconomics, one of my students was having trouble understanding the concept of marginal cost. On top of that, this student was rather unmotivated to learn more about the world of microeconomics.

After struggling through the first class, I decided to take a different approach to the second class. I told her that, I had seen from our first meeting how smart she was. I told her I noticed her ability to work with numbers and how understanding the concept of marginal costs would be a breeze for her if she would just take another look at it.

“Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise” — Dale Carnegie, 1964

The next week, this girl did not only manage to understand marginal costs, but she read ahead in the book and acquainted herself with several more economics concepts.

Having liked the idea of being a smart girl with a keen sense for numbers, she decided to work hard to make fulfill this vision.

Principle four: If you want to motivate someone, give them a reputation to live up to.

5) Let other people think of your idea

Did someone ever reject your idea without a clear reason? It is important to keep in mind that, everyone’s favorite idea, is their own idea.

During one of my internships, I had to graph a certain economic trend. While my supervisor urged me to use Excel, I tried to explain to him why I believed it would be more efficient to use statistical software such as Stata.

I’m guessing you already know what happened. The supervisor disagreed, saying I should stick to the method he outlined for Excel.

Several weeks later, a similar issue arose. Rather than rushing to my boss and telling him why my idea of using Stata was still better, I took a different approach.

During lunch, I told my supervisor how much I liked his Excel template and how excited I was to use it. If only there was a way to add certain details to the graph. If only there was a program that could do that. Then, his template would have been perfect.

Can you guess what happened? The next day, my supervisor came to me, saying he came up with an idea. What if, he continued, we would use Stata to create more detailed graphs? A splendid idea indeed!

The supervisor was now completely convinced by my idea. Why? Because this time, it was his idea.

Principle five: The next time your idea being dismissed, nudge the other person to come up with the same idea themselves.

Try to actively use these rules for 2 months. While they will require practice, I am convinced you can use them to further your career goals and improve your personal life.



[1] Dale Carnegie’s book: Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964.

[2] HBO Documentary Becoming Warren Buffett:

[3] The National Post on Dale Carnegie:



Adam Rybko
The Startup

MSc Development Economics @ LSE. I’m a high-achieving graduate student who writes about productivity, university admissions, and financially smart collecting.