Lessons From Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People

I was browsing through books at Coastal Carolina University’s library when I noticed Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends & Influence People. It says on the cover, “The only book you need to lead you to success.” That was enough to grab my attention, so I rented it from the library. Shortly after, I noticed people all around me reading it as well. It must have been really ironic timing because the book has been in print for over 75 years; it’s not a newly released book. I saw a young man reading it at the airport, my roommate randomly had picked it out just a week later, and a coworker was given it for free. This must be a great book, I thought! So with all the signs around me, I started reading it. This book was very easy to read and gave many great examples. I found many parallels between the people from today and Carnegie’s friends from the 1930’s. Carnegie’s book is written from a sales and business perspective, but his suggestions can be utilized in any field.  If you want to learn how to better sell, market and connect with customers, this is a MUST read. The book is divided into the following four parts, which relate to marketing and today’s customer-centered businesses.

What You Can Learn from How to Win Friends & Influence People

Part One – Fundamental Techniques to Handling People

I found this section of the book to be very interesting. Whether it is in a work setting or a personal setting, who doesn’t want to know how to handle people better? Carnegie suggests that to better handle people you need to “arouse in the other person an eager want.” People will be more inclined to buy your product if they feel it was their idea in the first place. Instead of constantly selling the service or product to people you need to make them feel a need and want for it. If a person becomes genuinely interested in your service or product, it is easier to persuade them. The second great tip in part one is, “give honest and sincere appreciation.”  Everyone likes to feel appreciated, even for the small things. If a customer complains to you, first start off with a genuine appreciation for the feedback. We often become defensive instead of offering a thank you for information about ways to improve. Handling people (and complaints) can be one of the toughest parts of a job.

Part Two – Six Ways to Make People Like You

One of the suggestions in part two that I could really relate to was this principle: “remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” I take an extreme amount of time purposely remembering people’s names. In any business interaction- such as emails, social media responses, or face-to-face -it is of the utmost importance to remember peoples’ names. It makes them feel special. Many companies have started addressing comments on social media by using the commenter’s name first. This makes consumers feel like you are talking to them personally and not just sending out a standardized message. Personalizing every aspect of marketing efforts can yield great results. People feel that the message is for them specifically, not for everyone. Here are some of the other great tips to make people like you:

  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
  • Make the other person feel important-and do it sincerely.

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

A lot of marketing and content marketing is giving people the product they want in the right place, for the right price using the right promotion. We often think about the 4 P’s of marketing in terms of what we think is right for our audience. We tend to forget to ask the audience themselves. Carnegie says, “Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.” Marketers spend a large amount of time conducting audience analysis, but how often do we actually let the audience talk to us about their needs? Currently, Sea World is re-branding itself and discontinuing the use of Orcas for theatrical performances. This is a great example of how the company listened to their consumers and changed, essentially, their entire business model to better fit the needs and wants of their consumers. Sea World created three short advertisements with the statements, “we heard you.” This follows one of Carnegie’s principles, “let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.” Instead of making this seem like a PR move, Sea World gave the credit to its consumers. A few other ways to win people to your way of thinking:

  • Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.

Part Four – Be a Leader: How to Influence People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

Part four was about how to personally be a better leader. This section posed many thought-provoking scenarios that demonstrated how changing your approach could be the most important factor. Leaders tend to stick out to others for their abilities to change attitudes and opinions while still maintaining poise. Many great companies today are great because they have great leaders.  Carnegie suggests: instead of calling others out, call attention to mistakes indirectly, ask questions instead of giving orders, and make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest. Tim Cook, as well as Steve Jobs, are known as great leaders of Apple. Both are noted as deeply involved with the development of products, but let other experts lead. Good leaders will allow followers to come to conclusions on their own without demanding things be done a certain way. It’s important both in person and online to remember the tone and voice, which can make all the difference in a situation. Coca-Cola does a great job at keeping its ideas fun and fresh while still acting as innovative leaders on important issues such as artificial sweeteners. A few other tips on how to influence people without offending them:

  • Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  • Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  • Begin with praise and honest appreciation.

I highly encourage everyone read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Its anecdotes and examples still ring true in today’s business world. This book really made me reflect on how I interact with people and what I can change to better persuade and influence those around me. I can’t wait to read more of his books and start applying his principles. Have you read this Carnegie book or others? What are your must-read business books?

If you enjoyed this post by Elizabeth, check out some of her other blogs

Elizabeth Muckensturm – Communication and Media Professor

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