How to Win Friends & Influence People — Summary

This is one of the books everyone should read to get the most out of life.


Our actions, not our words have the most impact on our impression in others. Thus, when we meet someone the best way to tell them that we are happy to meet them is to smile.

We tend to automatically like someone who smiles at us just as we feel happy when a dog wags his tail like crazy because he’s so happy to see us.

It has been shown that smiling gives us positive emotions, just as positive emotions make us (involuntarily) smile.

So smiling not only makes other people happy, but ourselves as well.

Don’t criticize

People are primarily driven by emotion not reason. So pointing out mistakes or worse, criticizing, is not helpful at all to help people learn and change their behavior.

A person you criticize will feel attacked and defend their own position (fight back) instead of adjusting their behavior.

Criticizing, therefore, will only help you to blow off steam, but it will contribute little to a change in others, and it will make them like you less.

Many successful people made a commitment to never openly criticize others. Benjamin Franklin for instance, claimed that his secret of success was to “speak ill of no man.”

Abraham Lincoln used to criticize opponents publicly until the day his criticism almost forced him into a saber duel. From that moment on he stopped criticizing others. Some famous later quotes of him are:

  • “with malice toward none, with charity for all.”
  • “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
  • “Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”

Criticizing is easy, understanding and accepting others is hard but more rewarding.


“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

~William James

One of the strongest drives of human behavior is to be appreciated by others.

How can we apply this important principle? In order to get other people to do something for us, appreciation will always be a much better incentive than the threat of punishment.

If you want favors from other people, they must know you as someone who shows appreciation, not someone who is quick to criticize.

Use phrases such as “thank you” or “I’m sorry” often. But your appreciation must be honest.

A good way to get a sincere appreciation it is good to adapt the mindset of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson said that every person he met was superior to him in certain ways, so he could always learn something from them and appreciate them.

In time you will find it easy to value and appreciate other people and they, in turn, will like you and enjoy working with you.

Show sincere interest, be a good listener

Don’t talk but listen. Everybody wants to talk and make others hear, but not many are good listeners. If you want to be likable, be a good listener.

Encourage other people to speak for themselves. Show natural interest for them. To listen, means to give the other person your full attention. Don’t interrupt them or make yourself be distracted.

Therefore, to be more likable, be a good listener.

Talk about things other people are interested in

Everyone likes good listeners, but people enjoy even more someone who is knowledgeable about things they are interested in.

People love to talk about things which are important to them, so naturally, they like other people who share their interests.

Theodore Roosevelt thoroughly prepared himself before he met someone, reading everything he could about the other person’s interests. He understood that his ability to talk about the thing the other person values most would win him their grace.

If you don’t know the others person interests, you can ask them about the one thing everyone likes to talk about, themselves.

“Talk to people about themselves, and they will listen for hours”

~Benjamin Disraeli

Whenever you talk to someone, tell them about something you admire in them. You can always find something to admire in others.

Keep in mind the golden rule: Treat others as you would like others to treat you.

Remember people’s names and details

We can show other people our appreciation by remembering details about them.

Theodore Roosevelt was popular among all his staff because he made a habit out of greeting everyone by their names. He also listened to them and tried to remember what they said.

Whenever you meet someone new, try to remember their name and details they say. Use it as you talk to them, they will like you instantly.

Avoid arguments

Perhaps you noticed that nine times out of then, arguments don’t result in anything positive. Both parties will only resent each other and stand more firmly in their position than before.

There is no point in arguing, therefore the only solution is to avoid such disputes from the start.

Whenever you encounter opposition to your ideas, there is no need to find an agreement. You don’t have to impose your ideas on them. It is of enough value that others challenge your views. Be thankful for their input and think about their reasoning without starting to argue.

If two people agree on everything, then one of them is dispensable, but if they argue all the time, there can be no productive discussion.

If you need to engage in a discussion, keep your emotions out of them. If emotions are involved, both parties should first think about the topic in private until the emotional reaction has dissipated.

Don’t tell others they’re wrong

It is often bad for people’s self-esteem if you blatantly tell them they’re wrong because it implies you are smarter than them.

Hurting their self-esteem will make them want to retaliate. So the best way to express your opposition you should not do it in absolute terms. Avoid phrases like: “It is clear that…”, “Obviously, the case is…”. Even if you think you are smarter than other people, you should not display this mentality.

Be humble and open-minded. You could say something like “I might be wrong, but it seems to me like…”, “I’m not an expert in this but…”.

Framing your opposition like this will turn opponents into allies, making it possible for you to change their opinions.

Benjamin Franklin made it a habit to never oppose others openly. He banished expressions like “certainly” and “undoubtedly” from his vocabulary and instead used phrases like “I conceive” or “I imagine.”

When you are wrong, admit it immediately

We may think that we have to keep our mistakes to ourselves in order to preserve our self-esteem. But making mistakes is something we all do, admitting them is what takes courage.

You can take neutralize your opponent’s thunder when you admit your mistake quickly and clearly. This can turn the situation around immediately. While the other person felt important before for criticizing you, they now have to be generous and forgive you so that they can still add to their self-esteem.

It requires character to publicly admit your mistakes, weaknesses and shortcomings. So other people will naturally think more highly of you.

Persuade indirectly

If you act in an insistent manner or even aggressively, the other person will probably stop listening, defend their position and not cooperate.

First, win over the other person by making sure that you have the same goals. Don’t reveal your own views before the other person believes you have the same interests.

The next step is to persuade the other person by making them agree with you as often as possible. You can achieve this by asking lots of small questions that can only be answered with a yes.

This approach is known as the Socratic method and the reasoning behind it is simple: The more “yeses” you get during your discussion, the higher the probability that you will get a yes when you reveal your real position on the subject.

By using this approach, you can make people agree with views they would have fiercely opposed moments ago.

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Also published on Medium.