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Winning Friends with Dale Carnegie

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

By: Joseph and Sumay McPhail

Dale Carnegie wrote what many call the first “Self Help” book titled, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” published in 1936. His principles for winning friends have been read by millions and for good reason. His book has four parts with over thirty chapters outlining many strategies for winning friends, but in this lesson we boil it down to just three. Don’t tell others what to do. Never tell someone they are wrong directly. Make the other person feel important.

Don’t tell others what to do. Just about everyone wants to feel they are in control of their own lives. The word for this is autonomy. We may have the best of intentions when we tell others what to do, but more often than not our intentions will be overwhelmed by two things. First, we run the risk of coming across as a know-it-all. Second, we run the risk of being wrong. It is very hard to truly understand someone’s situation so unless we are deeply knowledgeable in a particular field of study, and are being explicitly asked for advice, we are probably better off not giving it.

Never tell someone they are wrong directly. Just about everyone wants to feel they are right. So when we tell them they are wrong we run the risk of making them feel attacked. When we feel attacked we are more likely to become defensive then listen. That is why it is generally counterproductive to tell someone they are wrong directly. If you feel that you need to let someone know they are wrong it is best to do so indirectly. For example, if your sister takes the last popsicle without asking then you probably don’t want to say, “You should have asked before taking that popsicle!” Instead you may want to say, “Wow...that popsicle sure looks good.”

Make the other person feel important. Just about everyone wants to feel important. So when you are talking to other people you want to listen to them and show interest. People generally like talking about themselves and it’s hard not to like someone who allows us to share our struggles, successes, and laughs at our jokes. Of course, we also want to be honest and sincere. But everyone is unique and has something to share so trying to show interest will more often than not prove to be a valuable strategy for winning friends.

The reason the Carnegie Method works so well is simple enough. We humans are for the most part quite simple. We mostly just want to feel good about ourselves and have others tell us we are right. We like it when others make us feel important. We like to relax and have a good time. This has been true for thousands of years if not longer...and it will be for many thousands of years to come.

Question #1: People like to …

A. Feel important

B. Be told what to do

C. Criticized

D. Receive advice

Question #2: People want friends that …

A. Listen to them

B. Take the last popsicle

C. Know all the answers

D. Love to talk about themselves

Question #3: People do not like …

A. Being told they are wrong

B. Popsicles

C. People who laugh at their jokes

D. Talking about themselves



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