How to Win Friends and Influence People — All the Most Important Passages and Quotes

Judging from the astonishingly high reviews and top-of-list rankings even after so many years since it was originally published, I knew this was a highly regarded text. Naturally, I had high expectations before reading it. Dale Carnegie didn’t disappoint.

How to Win Friends and Influence People is arguably the singular most important book you could read to positively enhance your relationships and augment your reputation. As a result, this is a somewhat dangerous text, just like Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, for it unveils just how easily humans can be influenced and manipulated.

It is nonetheless a must read for every professional.

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HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE by Dale Carnegie

“Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers,” and “talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.”

Two key proponents in fostering mutually supportive relationships. By becoming the bigger man and admitting your own faults, the other party will feel less antagonized and may even empathize with you. With defense barriers down, he or she will become much more receptive to your own critiques.

People love to feel like they are in control, that they are in power. (In fact, this is the whole introduction in Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, another must-read) Thus, it is always disadvantageous to impose your own idea among others, for they will feel trapped and helpless but to adhere to your outlook. On the other hand, if you could subtly position someone so that they can come to the same conclusion themself, both parties feel good, even if one is artificial.

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Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes them strive to justify themselves. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts their sense of importance, and arouses resentment.

We’ve been told to praise in public, critique in private. Carnegie vouches for the elimination of critique altogether. People often recognize their own misdoings and shortcomings anyway. If not, preach self-awareness, so they can come to the right conclusion about themselves.

Don’t just give fish all the time; that’s a waste of your energy. Teach them how to fish instead.

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When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.

The prefrontal cortex evolved long after the limbic system, our primordial reptilian center primed for survival. Emotions are just responses to external events that either help or harm someone. It is just of our foremost concern.

Salesmen prefer the mantra, “We buy with emotion, we justify with logic.” The same is applicable to all facets of life.

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Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain — and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. “A great man shows his greatness,” said Carlyle, “by the way he treats little men.”

Always be the bigger man. Imagine from a macroscopic vantage how it seems comparing one individual who expels all his negative energy and emotions to another who always remains calm and collected.

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“To show you I’m sure that you’ll never do this again, I want you to service my F-51 tomorrow.”

When someone does something incredibly wrong, they are awash with a myriad of emotions: guilt, frustration, incompetence, fear… They will be forever grateful for a second chance, for a continued trust in their abilities. This is key to establishing an everlasting relationship, and they will reciprocate. Moreover, they are unlikely to perform the same mistake again, for they have learned; in fact, they will perform to the best of their capabilities instead.

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As Dr. Johnson said: “God Himself, sir, does not propose to judge man until the end of his days.” Why should you and I?

In his military leadership text Heirpower!, Chief Vasquez proclaims that we always have an immediate first impression of someone. If it is bad, and the individual does something unremarkable, we will naturally think See! I was right! I knew he was incapable.

Vasquez states we must leave a positive first impression. Carnegie sits on the other side of the table, stating we have no right to judge others for his wrongdoings, even against our natural inclination to do so.

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There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything. Did you ever stop to think of that? Yes, just one way. And that is by making the other person want to do it… William Winter once remarked that “self-expression is the dominant necessity of human nature.” Why can’t we adapt this same psychology to business dealings? When we have a brilliant idea, instead of making others think it is ours, why not let them cook and stir the idea themselves. They will then regard it as their own; they will like it and maybe eat a couple of helpings of it.

Probably the single most important concept of the entire book.

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Sigmund Freud said that everything you and I do springs from two motives: the sex urge and the desire to be great.

Both are directly related to the survival instinct: the sex urge to reproduce and pass on genes and the desire to be great, for it is easier to persist when one is adept and has others’ support that arises from recognition.

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Dr. Dewey said that the deepest urge in human nature is “the desire to be important.” Remember that phrase: “the desire to be important.” … [Meanwhile,] William James said: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” As I have already pointed out, it is this urge that differentiates us from the animals. It is this urge that has been responsible for civilization itself.

If there’s one thing that will guarantee a positive relationship, it’s to care for others. This is the premise of Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy.

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If some people are so hungry for a feeling of importance that they actually go insane to get it, imagine what miracle you and I can achieve by giving people honest appreciation this side of insanity… “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people,” said Schwab, “the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.

All it takes sometimes is a simple thank you or compliment. Yet, we are often so engrossed in our own lives, immersed in social media platforms, deliberately being busy, that we neglect simple, yet rudimentary human interaction.

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“There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a person as criticisms from superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a person incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.

When people are compelled to work, when they actually want to do it, it wouldn’t feel like work in the first place. And then performance skyrockets.

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As the old couplet says: “Once I did bad and that I heard ever. Twice I did good, but that I heard never.”

Carnegie stresses the faults in the status quo. We criticize but don’t praise enough, when the most influential individuals do the polar opposite.

The following are more passages that delineate just how important the separation between criticism and praise is.

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“In my wide association in life, meeting with many and great people in various parts of the world,” Schwab declared, “I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted their station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than they would ever do under a spirit of criticism.”

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When a study was made a few years ago on runaway wives, what do you think was discovered to be the main reason wives ran away? It was “lack of appreciation.” And I’d bet that a similar study made of runaway husbands would come out the same way. We often take our spouses so much for granted that we never let them know we appreciate them.

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Yet I know, as you know, people who would think they had committed a crime if they let their families or employees go for six days without food; but they will let them go for six days, and six weeks, and sometimes sixty years without giving them the hearty appreciation that they crave almost as much as they crave food.

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When Alfred Lunt, one of the great actors of his time, played the leading role in Reunion in Vienna, he said, “There is nothing I need so much as nourishment for my self-esteem.”

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Now, if we stop thinking about ourselves for a while and begin to think of the other person’s good points, we won’t have to resort to flattery so cheap and false that it can be spotted almost before it is out of the mouth.

Although praise is important, it is necessary for them to be genuine. People can see through insincerity, which raises their defense barriers, thereby also triggering the reactivity from that survival instinct previously mentioned.

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“If I were Tim, why would I be excited about going to kindergarten?” He and his wife made a list of al the fun things Tim would do such as finger painting, singing songs, making new friends. Then they put them into action. “We all started finger-painting on the kitchen table — my wife, Lil, my other son Bob, and myself, all having fun. Soon Tim was peeping around the corner. Next he was begging to participate. ‘Oh, no! You have to go to kindergarten first to learn how to finger-paint.’ With all the enthusiasm I could muster I went through the list talking in terms he could understand — telling him all the fun he would have in kindergarten.

A prime example of the effectiveness of making someone want to do something.

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Tomorrow you may want to persuade somebody to do something. Before you speak, pause and ask yourself: “How can I make this person want to do it?” That question will stop us from rushing into a situation heedlessly, with futile chatter about our desires…

School inundates us with projects and presentations, but never really teaches us the subtler things, like the specific intonations and sequence of words that will elicit certain responses. Thus, it’s important to visualize in your head how you will respond as an audience member.

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An argument would have begun to steam and boil and sputter — and you know how arguments end. Even if I had convinced him that he was wrong, his pride would have made it difficult for him to back down and give in…

“Frank, you knew that quotation was from Shakespeare,” “Yes, of course,” he replied, “Hamlet, Act Five, Scene Two. But we were guests at a festive occasion, my dear Dale. Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save his face? He didn’t ask for your opinion. He didn’t want it. Why argue with him? Always avoid the acute angle.” The man who said that taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. I not only had made the storyteller uncomfortable, but had put my friend in an embarrassing situation. How much better it would have been had I not become argumentative. He got his feeling of importance by loudly asserting his authority. But as soon as his importance was admitted and the argument stopped and he was permitted to expand his ego, he became a sympathetic and kindly human being.

Never wound someone’s pride, unless you want to kill a relationship and perhaps others, if the other individual is influential himself and badmouths about you.

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The New York Telephone Company made a detailed study of telephone conversations to find out which word is the most frequently used. You have guessed it: it is the personal pronoun “I.” “I.” I.” It was used 3,900 times in 500 telephone conversations. “I.” “I.” “I.” “I.”

Of course! We always seek nothing but the best for ourselves. Coupled with the constant gnawing sense that things can be better, it is no surprise that “I” is the most frequently used word.

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When you see a group photograph that you are in, whose picture do you look for first?

Hmmm…

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“If the author doesn’t like people,” he said, “people won’t like his or her stories.”

The issue of genuinity is not only applicable to compliments. Rather, this can be applied to all areas of life. Regardless of the situation, it’s essential to be sincere, for it can do you no harm, and can only positively enhance your relationships with others.

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I suggested that he try different tactics. To put it briefly, this is what happened. We staged a debate between members of the course on whether the spread of the chain store is doing the country more harm than good. Knaphle, at my suggestion, took the negative side; he agreed to defend the chain stores, and then went straight to an executive of the chain-store organization that he despised and said: “I am not here to try to sell fuel. I have come to ask you to do me a favor.” He then told about his debate and said, “I have come to you for help because I can’t think of anyone else who would be more capable of giving me the facts I want. I’m anxious to win this debate, and I’ll deeply appreciate whatever help you can give me.” Here is the rest of the story in Mr. Knaphle’s own words: I had asked this man for precisely one minute of his time. It was with that understanding that he consented to see me. After I had stated my case, he motioned me to a chair and talked to me for exactly one hour and forty-seven minutes. He called in another executive who had written a book on chain stores. He wrote to the National Chain Store Association and secured for me a copy of a debate on the subject. He feels that the chain store is rendering a real service to humanity. He is proud of what he is doing for hundreds of communities. His eyes fairly glowed as he talked, and I must confess that he opened my eyes to things I had never even dreamed of. He changed my whole mental attitude. As I was leaving, he walked with me to the door, put his arm around my shoulder, wished me well in my debate, and asked me to stop in and see him again and let him know how I made out. The last words he said to me were: “Please see me again later in the spring. I should like to place an order with you for fuel.”

People value their pride. People like to feel important. Once these two things are accomplished, anything can work in your favor.

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You don’t feel like smiling? Then what? Two things. First, force yourself to smile. If you are alone, force yourself to whistle or hum a tune or sing. Act as if you were already happy, and that will tend to make you happy. Here is the way the psychologist and philosopher William James put it: “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. “Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. . . .”

Fake it til you make it. :)

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One man, the manager of a large American bank in Paris, wrote me a scathing rebuke because his name had been misspelled. Sometimes it is difficult to remember a name, particularly if it is hard to pronounce. Rather than even try to learn it, many people ignore it or call the person by an easy nickname. Sid Levy called on a customer for some time whose name was Nicodemus Papadoulos. Most people just called him “Nick.” Levy told us: “I made a special effort to say his name over several times to myself before I made my call. When I greeted him by his full name: ‘Good afternoon, Mr. Nicodemus Papadoulos,’ he was shocked. For what seemed like several minutes there was no reply from him at all. Finally, he said with tears rolling down his cheeks, ‘Mr. Levy, in all the fifteen years I have been in this country, nobody has ever made the effort to call me by my right name.’

One of the prettiest words ever in any language is an individual’s own name. Take care to employ it accordingly, for it shows that you care who you’re talking to, and that they are important.

This story also interests me, for it’s a hallmark for all the trivial things we become upset about, when instead we should take a step back and examine all the things we should be grateful for. Focus on the positive instead of the negative.

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In other words, he took notice of every detail to which he knew I had given considerable thought. He made a point of bringing these various pieces of equipment to the attention of Mrs. Roosevelt, Miss Perkins, the Secretary of Labor, and his secretary. He even brought the old White House porter into the picture by saying, ‘George, you want to take particularly good care of the suitcases…’

This lady, left all alone in a big house with her paisley shawls, her French antiques, and her memories, was starving for a little recognition, She had once been young and beautiful and sought after She had once built a house warm with love and had collected things from all over Europe to make it beautiful. Now, in the isolated loneliness of old age, she craved a little human warmth, a little genuine appreciation — and no one gave it to her. And when she found it, like a spring in the desert, her gratitude couldn’t adequately express itself with anything less than the gift of her cherished Packard.

By taking an interest and genuinely caring about what others cared for, Roosevelt exemplified humility and won the respect of everyone he interacts with.

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“When the driving lesson was finished, the President turned to me and said: ‘Well, Mr. Chamberlain, I have been keeping the Federal Reserve Board waiting thirty minutes. I guess I had better get back to work.’

Tell people you care. Enjoy the present, for it shall subside.

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A person’s toothache means more to that person than a famine in China which kills a million people. A boil on one’s neck interests one more than forty earthquakes in Africa.

Again, Carnegie stresses that the most important individual in our lives is ourselves.

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Little phrases such as “I’m sorry to trouble you,” “Would you be so kind as to — — ? “ “Won’t you please?” “ Would you mind?” “Thank you” — little courtesies like these oil the cogs of the monotonous grind of everyday life — and, incidentally, they are the hallmark of good breeding.

Choose your words deliberately, selectively, and wisely.

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If you can be sure of being right only 55 percent of the time, you can go down to Wall Street and make a million dollars a day. If you can’t be sure of being right even 55 percent of the time, why should you tell other people they are wrong?

As human beings, it’s natural for us to make mistakes, so it is best if we keep that to ourselves. Our pride is too important to be wounded.

Yet, it is the uncertainty of right and wrong that gives life its meaning. If we don’t learn from our own mistakes everyday, we remain stagnant and complacent, which is no different than if we were dead.

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If a person makes a statement that you think is wrong — yes, even that you know is wrong — isn’t it better to begin by saying: “Well, now, look, I thought otherwise, but I may be wrong. I frequently am. And if I am wrong, I want to be put right. Let’s examine the facts…”

He told his class: “Recognizing that this was getting me nowhere fast, I tried a new tack. I would say something like this: ‘Our dealership has made so many mistakes that I am frequently ashamed. We may have erred in your case. Tell me about it.’

By prolonging the prelude to any controversial statement, the impact of the dissenting view is lessened. This can be applied to more than just simple disagreements among facts.

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When someone expresses some feeling, attitude or belief, our tendency is almost immediately to feel “that’s right,” or “that’s stupid,” “that’s abnormal,” “that’s unreasonable,” “that’s incorrect,” “that’s not nice .” Very rarely do we permit ourselves to understand precisely what the meaning of the statement is to the other person.

If we maintain a new belief that others’ opinions are more important than your own, then there will never be arguments and displeasant interactions.

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That policeman, being human, wanted a feeling of importance; so when I began to condemn myself, the only way he could nourish his self-esteem was to take the magnanimous attitude of showing mercy. But suppose I had tried to defend myself…

If we know we are going to be rebuked anyhow, isn’t it far better to beat the other person to it and do it ourselves? Isn’t it much easier to listen to self-criticism than to bear condemnation from alien lips?

An interesting dichotomy of statements. For one, the winner shows mercy when the loser condemns himself. At the same time, the loser does not have to bear the hurt of pride that will inevitably ensue when hearing the words from the winner.

Included below are more thought-provoking quotes about the same subject.

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There is a certain degree of satisfaction in having the courage to admit one’s errors. It not only clears the air of guilt and defensiveness, but often helps solve the problem created by the error.

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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.

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Remember the old proverb: “By fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected.”

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His speech was radiant with such phrases as I am proud to be here, having visited in your homes, met many of your wives and children, we meet here not as strangers, but as friends . . . spirit of mutual friendship, our common interests, it is only by your courtesy that I am here.

Language may be limited in that it is a societal construct that we employ to express ourselves. However, certain feelings and emotions are universal. By catering to these, by evoking certain emotions, we can all learn from Carnegie to become more influential, and perhaps, win some friends in the process.