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Book Review: How to Win Friends and Influence People | by Olivier Roland

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Olivier Roland

One Sentence Summary of “How to win friends and influence people” : To make friends, influence others and get them in our corner, it is important to know how to look after their ego; this happens after an important change in our everyday behavior, which consists of never criticizing, being genuinely interested in others, smiling, remembering the first name of the person we are speaking with, making them feel important, never telling them they are wrong, talking about our own mistakes before talking about theirs, motivating, sincerely complimenting, and generally always looking after their self esteem.

By Dale Canergie, 1936 (first edition), 1981 (most recently revised edition), 250 pages.

The author starts out by entrusting us with 8 rules for getting the best out of the book, which seem to me to be highly relevant and applicable to any number of non-fiction books:

  1. Have a great desire for learning and applying the principles that drive communications and relationships between human beings.
  2. Read every chapter twice before going on to the next one.
  3. Interrupt our readings frequently to ask ourselves about our personal possibilities for applying every principle.
  4. Underline the important ideas.
  5. Re-read the book every month.
  6. Practice the principles whenever the opportunity presents itself.
  7. Transform the book into a fun game: ask our friends to pay a penalty whenever they surprise us by breaking the rules.
  8. Monitor the progress that we make each week. Ask ourselves what mistakes we have made, what progress we have made, what lessons we have learned.

Chapter 1: If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive

He was condemned to the electric chair. When he arrived at the execution chamber, was he full of excuses, did he declare that he was experiencing remorse? No. He said “This is my punishment for wanting to defend myself.

Al Capone, the most notorious gangster of all time, himself said: “I have spent the best years of my life giving pleasure to people and amusing them, and what has been my reward? Insults and the life of a hunted man.” Often, gangsters, criminals and wrongdoers justify their behavior with a whole lot of logical or fallacious reasoning.

If criminals as notorious as Francis Crowley or Al Capone consider themselves innocent, what do the people we meet every day who are just like you and me think of themselves?

This is a universal law that is sometimes difficult to accept: 99 times out of 100, man considers himself innocent, no matter how serious his crime. Criticism is therefore useless because it puts the individual on the defensive and forces him to justify himself, and it is dangerous because it damages their self esteem and causes bitterness. Criticism is like a carrier pigeon: the person we want to blame and correct will do anything to justify himself and will condemn us in return. Or, often, they exclaim: “I don’t see how I could have acted any differently!”

When you study the lives of those considered great leaders of men, like Abraham Lincoln — who Dale Carnegie studied in a very thorough manner, even wrote a biography, Lincoln the Unknown — you generally notice that they handle criticism with extreme caution and do everything to preserve the self esteem of those they reproach.

Rather than condemn people, it is better to try and understand them, to discover the motive for their actions. This is much nicer and more productive than criticizing, and it makes us more tolerant, understanding, and good.

Principal # 1: Don’t criticize, don’t condemn and don’t complain

Chapter 2 : The big secret of dealing with people

There is only one way in the world to get someone to do something: you must excite in them the desire to do it. Obviously, it is always possible to use force, authority or blackmail, but these methods have way more disadvantages than advantages. It is only by giving you what you want that I will manage to get you to do something.

So, what are our needs? In a list that somewhat resembles Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Dale Carnegie lists the different needs that we claim with ceaseless insistence:

  1. Health and preservation of life
  2. Food
  3. Sleep
  4. Money and the means to procure it
  5. Future survival
  6. Sexual satisfaction
  7. Our children’s happiness
  8. A sense of being important

Very often, most of these needs are met, but there is one that is rarely satisfied, because it is just as deep, and just a imperative as hunger. It is what Freud referred to as “the desire to be recognized,” what William James talks about as “the deepest principal of human nature,” and that is the thirst for appreciation, recognition, to be considered important. This desire distinguishes man from the animals, in which it does not exist.

It is this desire for importance that has driven many men who were poor at birth, to realize a glorious destiny, like Lincoln, Dickens or Rockefeller, it is this desire that drives men to buy cars that are too big for their needs or a house that is much to huge for them.

Tell me how you fulfill this need, and I will tell you who you are. The way in which we fill this need is one of the traits that best characterizes our personality. Some people fulfill it by turning to crime, like the notorious French Bonnot Gang, others write great works of literature, or build commercial empires or help others with all their might, until their dying breath. History is full of amusing details about famous people who try to show their importance, from George Washington, who demanded to be called the “Greatest President of the United States,” to Victor Hugo who wanted to donate his name to the city of Paris.

Note: And you just have to stroll through the Père Lachaise cemetery and read the epitaphs to understand that this need for importance accompanied many men even in death.

So, what is the best way to give a person the importance they seek so much? It is by complimenting them. It is not a matter here of flattery, false or otherwise, which is dangerous and often ends up coming back to bite the sycophant. It is a matter of a new mental attitude, of a new way of life: finding the good qualities in others and sincerely complimenting them, making them aware of the admiration we have for them. Sincere praise is the honey of human relations — everyone seeks it and deeply appreciates it.

Principal # 2: Compliment sincerely and honestly

Chapter 3: He who can do this this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way

Why are we always talking about what we want? It’s vain, childish and absurd. Obviously, each of us is interested in what we want. We will be interested in it for eternity. But we will be the only ones thinking about it. Everyone else is just like us in this regard and worry only about what they think.

That’s why the only way to influence your neighbor is to talk to him about what he wants and show him that he can get it.

This is the secret of success: putting yourself in someone else’s place and thinking about things from both his point of view and ours. Because action is born out of our fundamental desires, and to influence others you must first excite in them an ardent desire to act.

Principal # 3: Motivate often to do what you propose.

Chapter 4: Do this and you’ll be welcome anywhere

We all know people who try their whole lives to get people interested in them. Wasted effort! People are only interested in themselves. They think about themselves morning, noon and night. When you look at a photo of a group that you are part of, who do you look at first?

If you want people to be interested in you, you must first be interested in them. Whether we are a beggar or a king, we like those who admire us.

Do you want people to like you? Then write down anniversaries on your calendar and send a card, welcome people with warmth and enthusiasm on the telephone, show your admiration and your sincere interest when opportunity presents itself. Publius Syrus said it over two thousand years ago:

We are interested in others when they are interested in us.

As with all the advice in this book, this must be applied with total sincerity. This way you might even touch the the heart of the most powerful and unreachable person.

Principal # 4: Be genuinely interested in others

Chapter 5 : A simple way to make a good first impression

Actions speak louder than words. A smile says: “I like you,” “I am happy to see you,” “Your presence makes me happy,” etc. Obviously, it needs to be a sincere, wide and spontaneous smile that seduces and comforts, not a mechanical and false smile that irritates instead of pleasing.

The most striking example of the effect of a sincere smile is the smile of a child :

Photo by Julien Lagarde

Often it communicates to us and can change our grimmest mood in an instant, whenever we smile back.

A smile is so important that it is can also be heard in our voice. Your telephone voice will change if you smile; try it and see 🙂

Try this: For one week, once an hour, smile your widest, sincerest smile possible, be nice to others, appreciate their company, because we must be happy in the company of our peers if we want them to be happy in ours. If this is difficult for you, tell yourself that it is just one week and you can stop after that if you don’t like it 😉

Principal # 5 : Have a smile

Chapter 6 : If you don’t do this you are headed for trouble

James Farley, a famous American politician, has succeeded in becoming a cornerstone of American politics, depended on for decades, even though he was born to a poor family of farmers, even though he lost his father at age 10 and had to start working at that age on a construction site, pushing wheelbarrows full sand and letting bricks dry in the sun. When Dale Carnegie asked him his secret, he replied that he could remember the first name of over five thousand people, as well as the details of each of their lives.

He was Roosevelt’s electoral agent. He had a simple and remarkable system: whenever he met a new person he researched their first and last name — with its exact spelling — and carefully engraved the details in his mind, then he was able to greet this person by his first name by cross-referencing them later — sometimes years later.

Jim Farley knew that everyone likes his own name better than any other name on earth. If you can remember someone’s name, you pay its owner a subtle and appreciated compliment. But if you forget it, mispronounce it or misspell it, you might upset someone or greatly displease them. Men are proud of their name and try to perpetuate it at all costs.

In general, if we forget names, it’s because we simply don’t take the time to write them down, repeat them, and engrave them permanently in our minds. This takes work and requires a certain amount of time, but the reward is definitely worth the effort.

Principal # 6: Remember a person’s name so that they are important

Chapter 7 : An easy way to become a good conversationalist

How do you succeed with the person you are talking with? How do you convince him and reach a good understanding with him? It’s no mystery: to win someone over, put him in a good mood, and get him in your corner, you must give him your full attention when he expresses himself. Nothing is more flattering.

To do this, you must know how to listen sincerely, and show it.

This also works with unhappy people, including customers. Often, unhappy customers who complain are deeply hurt themselves because someone has made them feel one way or another that they are not important. If you succeed in showing them that they are important in your eyes, then often their complaint will go away by itself.

On the other hand, if you want to know what to do to get people to run from you, mock you behind you back, or despise you, it’s easy: don’t listen to what other people say; only talk about yourself. If an idea comes to you when someone else is talking, don’t wait until they are finished. What good will it do anyway? In any case, what they are saying can’t be as interesting and brilliant as what you are going to say. Go on, really, cut them off mid-sentence.

But if you want your conversation to be appreciated, learn how to listen: to be interesting, be interested. Ask stimulating, agreeable questions, ask them about their life, what they have done. Remember that the person you are talking to is a hundred times more interested in his toothache than in the famine that was responsible for thousands of deaths in China.

Principal # 7: Learn to listen. Encourage others to talk about themselves

Chapter 8 : How to get people to like you instantly

To find the way to man’s heart you must bring him what he prizes the most

To discover what interests someone, what he is passionate about, all you have to do is stop and listen with interest while he explains to you everything you want to know.

Principal # 8 : Talk to people about what they are interested in

Chapter 9 : How to make people like you instantly

There is a primordial law that we must respect in our relationships with others. If we observe it, we will win friendship and happiness. If we violate it, we will give rise to numerous difficulties in our wake. Here it is: Make others feel important.

You respect those around you, you wish them to do justice to your merits, and you like very much feeling important in your own circle. You hate excessive flattery, but adore sincere praise, you want to be respected, encouraged, complimented. We all aspire to that.

Principal 9 : Make others feel important and do it sincerely

Chapter 10 : You can’t win an argument

He studied logic and argument in college, never missed the opportunity to participate in contradictory debates, and even directed a dialectic course as a result, and made the project about writing on a subject… Then, after having attended and participated in thousands of discussions, he analyzed them and drew one conclusion: the best way to carry on a controversy is to avoid it. Nine times out of ten, everyone leaves the debate being even more certain that they are right.

Effectively, nobody wins these battles! Because if you lose, you lose and if you win, you also lose because you have proven to your adversary that he is wrong, you have made him feel inferior, you have hurt his self esteem and his pride. So,

A man convinced against his will
Always keeps his own opinion.

You must therefore choose: a spectacular and theoretic triumphant, or sincere agreement. The two rarely go together. You may well be right, a hundred times right, if you have to fight prove it and change your adversaries mind, your efforts will as useless as if you were wrong.

But what should you do then if there is disagreement? The idea is to welcome the dispute. The dispute is an opportunity to enrich yourself, to discover a new point of view that had not occurred to you before. Here is advice in such a situation:

  • Don’t give in to your first impulse.
  • Overcome your anger.
  • Begin by listening.
  • Find common ground.
  • Be honest.
  • Promise to think about the ideas of your adversaries, and study them carefully.
  • Sincerely thank your adversaries for their interest.
  • Adjourn your actions to allow both parties present the time to examine the problem in detail.

Principal # 10: Avoid controversy, unless you can come out on top.

Chapter 11: A sure way of making enemies and how to avoid it.

Actually, if we could be sure of being right even 50% of the time, all that would be left to do would be to install ourselves on Wall Street and earn a million dollars a day. But if we can’t achieve this percentage, why do we allow ourselves to state that others are wrong?

So don’t ever begin a sentence with “I will prove that to you” or “I can show that…” because that comes out as “I am smarter than you, and I am going to change your mind,” that can only hurt someone’s self esteem without changing their mind. It is actually difficult, even under favorable conditions, to change other people’s opinion, so why present obstacles and add even more difficulty?

If someone states something that you think is wrong, wouldn’t it be better to start with: Listen, I don’t see it the same way as you but I might be wrong. That happens to me a lot. If I am wrong, I will change my mind… Let’s take a look together, would you mind?

This type of phrasing is magic because no-one can object to “I might be wrong, let’s take a look together.” Who can find anything to say about that? Therefore no-one will ever be annoyed with you if you promptly admit that you are subject to error.

Here is an excerpt from the book “The Mind in the Making” by James Harvey Robinson to learn more:

[Translator’s note: The book excerpt is translated from the French version, so the text may not match the English version of the book exactly]

We can spontaneously modify our opinions effortlessly and without emotion. But if someone tells us that we are wrong, we revolt against the accusation and instantly adopt a defensive attitude. We form our convictions lightly, but the instant anyone threatens to snatch them from us, we develop a fierce passion for them. Obviously, it is not so much our ideas as it is our self esteem that we fear is in danger…

Principal #11: Respect others’ opinions. Never tell people they are wrong.

Chapter 12: If you’re wrong, admit it.

One day, the author was walking his dog off the leash in a park, which was not allowed. He came face to face with a mounted policeman who, after a sharp reprimand, told him never to come back. A week later, Dale Carnegie came across the same policeman, in the exact same circumstances. What did he do? He rushed up to the policeman and overwhelmed him with apologies, and reminded him that he had promised to fine him if he did it again. The policeman’s reply was mellow, Dale Carnegie insisted that he was at fault, and finally the policeman let him off the hook.

Because the policeman, like all of us, was only a man; what he wanted was confirmation of his own importance. When Dale Carnegie confessed, the only thing left for the policeman to do to maintain his own self esteem was to adopt a magnanimous attitude.

When we know that we deserve a dressing down, isn’t it better to take the initiative bravely and make our mea culpa? If we inflict blame on ourselves, isn’t it more acceptable that way than from someone else’s mouth?

Principal #12: If you are wrong, admit it promptly and energetically.

Chapter 13: A drop of honey

One day, the wind and the sun were arguing over who was the strongest. The wind said:

– I am going to prove that I am. You see that old man down there? I bet that I can make him take his coat off faster than you can.

Upon which the sun disappeared behind a cloud and the wind started to blow like a hurricane. But the harder it blew, the more the man cinched his coat around him. Finally, the wind became tired and stopped blowing. Then, the sun came out from behind a cloud and smiled gently to the traveler. Soon he started to feel warm; he wiped his forehead and took off his coat.

The sun then remarked to the wind that sweetness and kindness are always stronger than violence and fury.

Principal #13: Begin on a friendly note.

Chapter 14: The Secret of Socrates

Because as Dr Overstreet says in his book “The Art of influencing the human condition:”

A negative response is a difficult obstacle to overcome. When someone says “no,” his pride causes him to remain steadfast in his opinion[…]. Later, he may figure out that it was an unjustified no. Too bad! He cannot retract it; he must above all look out for his self esteem. That’s why it is extremely important to start out, from the beginning, with the person you are talking to in the right direction: that of agreement.

[…]

When someone says “no” sincerely and with conviction, they can do no more than articulate those two letters. […] Their whole being is on the defensive, the whole neuro-muscular system is alerted against agreeing.

On the other hand, when someone says “yes,” their body takes on a consenting, receptive attitude. Consequently, the more we can get people to say yes, the more we succeed in putting someone in a favorable mood towards our proposition.

Principal #14: Ask questions that will lead to saying yes immediately.

Chapter 15: The safety valve in handling complaints

Principal # 15 : Make the person you are talking to feel completely comfortable speaking.

Chapter 16: How to get cooperation

Twenty five centuries ago, Lao-Tsu, a wise man from China said that the reason why rivers and seas are graced with certain mountain streams is because they keep a low profile. They can thus reign over all the mountain streams. The wise man, who wants to be above others, puts himself below them; if he wants to be in front, sets himself behind. Thus, if his place is above others, they don’t feel his weight; if his place is in front, they are not hurt.

Principal #16: Allow the person you are talking to the pleasure of thinking it was his idea.

Chapter 17: A formula that will work wonders for you.

Actually, your neighbor has a reason for thinking and acting as he does. Find out the hidden reason and you will understand the secret to his behavior, and probably to his personality.

Think about the difference that exists between the passionate interest that you have for your own business and the luke warm attention that you pay to the rest of the word. Ponder, and ponder deeply on the fact that everyone in the world experiences the same thing as you. If you can understand that, then you can considerably perfect the art of leading men.

Principal #17: Make a real effort to see things from the other person’s point of view.

Chapter 18: What everybody wants

Yes? Well then, it does exist. Here is it:

“I understand completely where you are coming from, if I was you I would probably feel the same.”

Try it and you will see 😉

Principal #18: Welcome kindly the ideas and desires of others.

Chapter 19: Appeal that everybody likes

So, to influence others it is better to appeal to their most noble intentions. For fear of shattering the idealist image they have of themselves, they will be more motivated to respond to your pleas.

Note : The desire to show only the most noble motivation is not only strong to protect their self image, but also the image they wish to project to others.

Principal #19: Appeal to higher feelings.

Chapter 20: The movies do it. TV does it. Why don’t you do it?

The publication highlighted the lies and rumors, and appealed to people in a more convincing and more attractive way than a whole pile of figures and arguments.

Principal #20: Show off your ideas spectacularly. Appeal to both sight and imagination.

Chapter 21: When nothing else works try this

Principal #21: Present a challenge.

Chapter 22: If you must find fault, this is the way to begin

Principal #22: Start out with sincere praise.

Chapter 23: How to criticize and not be hated for it

How do you think the workers felt? They were in violation and they knew he knew it. Instead of punishing them, he offered them a gift and didn’t say a thing to reproach them. He had made them feel important. Who couldn’t like a man like that?

With reasonable people who would suffer under direct criticism, draw attention to their mistakes indirectly, and you will work wonders.

Principal #23: Comment on mistakes or errors indirectly.

Chapter 24: Talk about your own mistakes first

Principal #24: Mention your own mistakes before correcting those of other people.

Chapter 25: Nobody likes to take orders

Principal #25: Ask questions rather than giving direct orders.

Chapter 26: Let the other person save face

I don’t have the right to say or do something that diminishes a man in his own eyes. What counts is not what I think of him, but what he thinks of himself. Hurting a man’s dignity is a crime.

Principal #26: Let the person you are speaking with save face.

Chapter 27: How to spur people on to success

Praise is like sunshine for the human spirit. We cannot flourish without it. However, most of use are ready to blow the cold wind of criticism on others, rather than warm their heart with a compliment.

So, let’s acknowledge the progress, however slight it is, of those we wish to encourage. That’s how we will motivate them, how we will get them to pursue their efforts.

Principal #27: Praise the smallest progress and praise any progress. Do it warmly and generously.

Chapter 28: Give a dog a good name

Principal #28: Give a good reputation to the deserving.

Chapter 29: Making the fault seem easy to correct

Principal #29: Encourage. Make errors seem easy to fix.

Chapter 30: Making people glad to do what you want

  1. Be sincere. Don’t make false promises. Forget your own interests and focus on the interest of the other person.
  2. Make sure you know exactly what you want the person to do.
  3. Put yourself in the other person’s place.
  4. Think about the benefits that the other person will get out of doing what you want them to do.
  5. Make sure these benefits line up with what the other person wants.
  6. When you make an offer, structure it in such a way that the other person understands that he will benefit personally.

Principal #30: Make others happy to do what you suggest.

Dale Carnegie seems to write as he Speaks, staying very concrete, concise and relevant, and using many examples from real life — what am I saying? — a plethora of examples — of which you have only a small sample in this summary.

These examples might seem dated — they date from the Civil War to the Second World War for the most part — but they are extremely varied, from a president, a king and an emperor, all the way to factory directors, finance magnates or workers. They allow us to get into the concepts very easily and understand how to apply them on a daily basis.

Regarding content, I found this book extremely interesting, because of the primordial importance it accords to the ego and self esteem. Dale Carnegie puts the deeply emotional nature of human beings first, and the whole book is centered on these two primordial concepts:

1. No matter what they say, men and women are above all emotional beings with a vital need to look kindly on themselves.

2. No matter how rational an argument might be, they will reject it most of the time if their self esteem is hurt.

Once you understand these two concepts, most of the principles of the book are simple to understand. All you have to do is apply them. The eight pieces of advice that Carnegie gives at the beginning of this book — and that could easily be applied to almost all the Personal MBA books — are, I think, a good beginning for implementing.

As with everything, this advice must be applied in moderation, otherwise I think we could become machines generating consensus, which would be a bit bland and hypocritical. I also think that a good Kick in the rear can produce better results than all the diplomacy in the world.

But Carnegie’s approach doesn’t consist of adopting mechanical tricks to artificially increase his influence, it consists of understanding the two concepts presented above, and internalizing them to transform our point of view with regard to human relationships and remaining watchful so that the other person comes out on top, or at least free, in our arguments, confrontations and other issues.

It’s a huge program. I am sure that human relationships would be a bit smoother if everyone applied the principles in this book.

What’s more, it’s an excellent introduction to the ideas of ego and self esteem, and a point of departure for me with certain questions: why is it so important to us to maintain the vision of ourselves intact, and the way that we think of ourselves even though very often we “form our opinions lightly?” Why do we favor a comfortable vision even though it is false, to the truth? What is ego? Self esteem? Are they deeply human and therefore universal, greatly influenced by society or not? In short, great, interesting questions but which require sometime to be understood.

I therefore recommend this book. It’s excellent, may change the way in which we look at human relationships and is easy to read. A must have.

Strong points:

  • Clear and concise
  • Written simply and is easy to read
  • Numerous examples covering a wide variety of situations
  • Strong, relevant, fundamental concepts
  • Many principles that can be applied or internalized

Weak Points:

  • The examples are a little dated (from the Civil War to the Second World War primarily)
  • A little redundant at times

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