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A classic! What more can you say? The quintessential "working handbook on human relations," I can’t count how many times I have read or skimmed "How to Win Friends." Yet every time that I do, I learn something new and incredibly impactful to me, my personal life, and to my business.

Originally published in 1936, Dale Carnegie’s examples are laced with references and stories relevant to his day and to his recent history, gleaning lessons from Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Civil War generals, English kings, John D. Rockefeller, and many others.

But don’t be put off by the age of this book or think that Carnegie’s "old" stories and examples hold no meaning in today’s world and times…they do! The book’s insights and lessons are relevant to any decade, any organization, and any situation involving people. That’s part of what makes this book such a classic – it’s timeless.

The basis for the book is the fact that of prime interest to everyone is people: how to understand and get along with people; how to make people like you; and how to win others to your way of thinking. But the methods Carnegie suggests are not about tricking or cajoling others, or taking advantage of them. They are about focusing on others’ needs and wants, just like you would like others to do with you.

The importance of being "good" with people is evident by studies performed at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and others. These investigations revealed that "about 15 percent of one’s financial success is due to one’s technical knowledge and about 85 percent is due to skill in human engineering – to personality and the ability to lead people." To me, those numbers are astonishing and run counter to where we actually invest so much of our time, attention, energy, and resources.

In no way can this summary do the book justice but, for the sake of our purposes, let’s briefly review some select principles from each of the book’s four sections.

Part One – Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  • Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. Criticism is often futile and merely puts people on the defensive. Instead try to understand why people do what they do.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation. If you can arouse enthusiasm in people and a sense of good will, you can begin to realize the true power of appreciation.
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want. Henry Ford said that "If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own."

Part Two – Six Ways to Make People Like You

  • Become genuinely interested in other people. Care about them and their interests. Do things for others that require "time, energy, unselfishness and thoughtfulness."
  • Smile. It’s been said that "People who smile tend to manage, teach and sell more effectively, and to raise happier children." It’s a simple enough idea, so I wonder why so few people seem to follow it.
  • Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. A young boy once said to his mother, "Mom, I know you love me very much because whenever I talk to you about something you stop whatever you are doing and listen to me." Wow, that hits home!
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. William James said, "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." Help someone feel appreciated and how could they not like you?

Part Three – How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  • The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. Sure, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.
  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. Any fool can try to defend his mistakes, but it raises one above the herd to admit one’s mistakes.
  • Get the other person saying "Yes, yes" at the outset…and keep your opponent, if possible, from saying "No." Use the "Socratic method" to garner trust and agreement.
  • Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires. Just because they may not be consistent with your own, it doesn’t mean they are wrong and you are right. Strive to be open to others, you may learn something.

Part Four – Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Rousing Resentment

  • Ask questions instead of giving direct orders. No one likes to take direct orders, so give people the opportunity to do things themselves.
  • Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. If you want to improve a person in a certain respect, act as though that particular trait were already one of his or her outstanding characteristics.
  • Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest. Be sincere. Be empathetic and match the benefits of doing the thing you suggest to the other person’s wants.

There is so much wisdom packed into the pages of this book that it seems impossible to digest it all. However, if you take Dale Carnegie’s principles and lessons to heart, you can’t help but be more of who you want to be and accomplish more than you ever thought possible. And you’ll develop some truly meaningful relationships along the way.