This book is a classic, and needs no introduction.
There are thirty principles in the book laid out in 4 main sections, and we’ll cover each with a quote from the book, and a sentence or two of commentary.
Let’s get started.
Section #1: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes them strive to justify themselves.”
Criticizing other people never works to get what you want. Stop doing it.
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
Being appreciated is one of the core human needs that is rarely satisfied. Be generous in your appreciation for the people in your life and they will love you for it. Just make sure it’s sincere.
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.
“First, arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.”
The only person who is interested in what you want is you. And everybody else is only interested in what they want. So, give people what they are interested in, not what you are interested in.
It seems obvious, but most people don’t practice it.
Section #2: Six ways to make people like you
1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get people interested in you.”
Instead of spending so much time worrying about how to be interesting, focus more time on being interested.
“You must have a good time meeting people if you expect them to have a good time meeting you.”
A smile is worth its weight in gold. First, it puts you in a good mood. Go ahead and try to be miserable while you are smiling. Second, it tells the other person, without saying a word, that you like them and are genuinely happy to be in their presence.
3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
“The average person is more interested in his or her own name than in all the other names on earth put together.”
Using a person’s name while you are in a conversation with them is the best way to make them feel important.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
“If you want to know how to make people shun you and laugh at you behind your back and even despise you, here is the recipe: Never listen to anyone for long. Talk incessantly about yourself. If you have an idea while the other person is talking, don’t wait for him or her to finish: bust right in and interrupt in the middle of a sentence.”
Instead of thinking about what you are going to say next in a conversation, slow yourself down and truly listen to the other person. Being a good listener is better than being a good talker.
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
“The royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most.”
Theodore Roosevelt was famous for staying up late the night before a guest was expected the following day, reading about whatever the guest was most interested in. That would allow him to talk with the other person about what interested them most.
This is like a rapport super power.
6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
“If we are so contemptibly selfish that we can’t radiate a little happiness and pass on a bit of honest appreciation without trying to get something out of the other person in return – if our souls are no bigger than sour crab apples, we shall meet with the failure we so richly deserve.”
In short, we should go out of our way to do something that makes the other person feel important – and do it happily without expecting anything in return.
Section #3: Win people to your way of thinking
1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
“There is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument – and that is to avoid it.”
It’s impossible to win an argument, because even if we are the victor, the other person feels inferior. And that’s a surefire way to make somebody reject your thinking.
2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
“I’m not revealing anything new in the this chapter. Two thousand years ago, Jesus said: “Agree with thine adversary quickly.””
Nobody likes to be told they are wrong. They do, however, like to be understood. Always show that you understand the other person’s opinion, even if you don’t agree with it.
3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
“Any fool can try to defend his or her mistakes – and most fools do – but it raises one above the herd and gives one a feeling of nobility and exultation to admit one’s mistakes.”
If you know you are wrong about something, make sure you admit it before somebody else has to point it out to you.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
“A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.”
Getting angry or shouting to get your point across is never a good strategy. Approaching a disagreement in a friendly manner will always generate more results than direct conflict.
5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
“[Socrates] kept on asking questions until finally, almost without realizing it, his opponents found themselves embracing a conclusion they would have bitterly denied a few minutes previously.”
When you are trying to persuade, always start by focusing on the areas where you have agreement. The more you can get the other person into a “yes” state of mind, the more likely you are to get them to agree to other things later.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
“If you disagree with them you may be tempted to interrupt. But don’t…Listen patiently with an open mind. Be sincere about it. Encourage them to express their ideas fully.”
The person in control of a conversation is the person asking the questions. Guide people to your point of view with questions, not arguments.
7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
“Don’t you have much more faith in ideas that you discover for yourself than in ideas that are handed to you on a silver platter?”
Nobody wants to be told what to do. However, they do like to act on their own ideas. So, find a way to help them feel like they came up with it on their own.
8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
“There is a reason why the other man thinks and acts as he does. Ferret out that reason – and you have the key to his actions, perhaps to his personality.”
Only when you understand the reasons for other people’s actions can you truly start to convince them to change them.
9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
“Wouldn’t you like to have a magic phrase that would stop arguments, eliminate ill feeling, create good will, and make the other person listen attentively? Here it is: I don’t blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you I would undoubtedly feel just as you do.”
We all want to feel like we are understood.
10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
“J. Pierpont Morgan observed, in one of his analytical interludes, that a person usually has two reasons for doing a thing: one that sounds good and a real one.”
People want to fulfill their obligations. When you appeal to people’s nobler motives – specifically that they are honest and have integrity – they are more likely to act that way.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
“I was presenting the same facts this time that I had presented previously. But this time I was using dramatization, showmanship – and what a difference it made.”
The more passion and showmanship you put into selling your ideas, the more effective you will become.
12. Throw down a challenge.
“They desire to excel! The challenge! Throwing down the gauntlet! An infallible way of appealing to people of spirit.”
Every successful person loves “the game.” Give them one to play.
Section #4: Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
“Beginning with praise is like the dentist who begins his work with Novocain. The patient still gets a drilling, but the Novocain kills the pain.”
People you talk to will always be more open to criticism if you first let them know what you appreciate about them.
2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
“Calling attention to one’s mistakes indirectly works wonders with sensitive people who may resent bitterly any direct criticism.”
A great way to do this is to replace the word “but” with the word “and.” For instance, instead of saying:
“We’re really proud of you, Billy, for getting better grades this semester. But if you had worked harder in your math class, you would’ve done even better.”
You could say:
“We’re really proud of you, Billy, for getting better grades this semester, and if you continue your efforts next semester, your math grade can be up with all the others.”
3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
“Admitting one’s own mistakes – even when one hasn’t corrected them – can help convince somebody to change his behavior.”
Nobody is perfect. The other person will be more likely to listen to you if you make it clear that you aren’t perfect either.
4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
“People are more likely to accept an order if they have had a part in the decision that caused the order to be issued.”
Instead of saying “you did this wrong, and here’s what you need to do better next time”, ask “what do you think you could do better next time?”
5. Let the other person save face.
“Even if we are right and the other person is definitely wrong, we only destroy ego by causing someone to lose face.”
If you can find a way to let somebody save face, do it.
6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
“This great contemporary psychologist (he was referring to B.F. Skinner) has shown by experiments with animals and humans that when criticism is minimized and praise emphasized, the good things people do will be reinforced and the poorer things will atrophy for lack of attention.”
It’s been proven throughout time that what you focus on becomes your reality. So if you want more of one type of behavior – praise it.
7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
“If you want to improve a person in a certain aspect, act as though that particular trait were already one of his or her outstanding characteristics.”
Stephen Covey has a fantastic quote that I think sums up this principle well:
“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.”
8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
“Be liberal with your encouragement, make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it, that he has an undeveloped flair for it – and he will practice until the dawn comes in the window in order to excel.”
This principle needs no further explanation.
9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.
The final key to being a leader and changing people without arousing resentment is to make the person happy about doing what we want them to do.
There are 6 steps to doing this well.
- Be sincere. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.
- Know exactly what you want the other person to do.
- Be empathetic. Ask yourself what the other person really wants.
- Consider the benefits the other person will receive from doing what you suggest.
- Match the benefits to the other person’s wants.
- Convey your request so the other person understands how they will benefit.