This is mostly for me to write down my notes and thoughts about the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
I’ve noted below the summary from the end of each section below (so I don’t forget what they were).
The first three sections seemed to speak to my modern sensibilities the most (keep in mind this book was published in 1936 … the version I read was revised in 1981).
I have the summaries below, for reference, but I wanted to have my own take on each.
Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
This seems to be a long way of saying the “Use the Golden Rule” over and over again. The three points are:
- Don’t criticize, condemn or complain
- Give honest and sincere appreciation
- Arouse in the other person an eager want
Six ways to make people like you
The ‘rules’ presented here are also useful for making small talk at parties (or other gatherings). I find that talking about myself with a total stranger is about the hardest thing I can do. I try to engage with people at parties and have what I hope are interesting questions to ask should I need to. Stuff I tend to avoid:
- What do you do for a living?
- Where do you work?
Stuff I try to focus on:
- How do you know the host / acquaintance we may have in common
- What’s the most interesting problem you’ve solved or are working to solve in the last week
- Have you been on a vacation recently? What was your favorite part about it? (With this one I don’t let people off the hook with, ‘being away from work’ … I try to find something that they really found enjoyable and interesting
These talking points are usually a pretty good starting point. Sometimes when I’m introduced to a person and the person introduces them as their job, i.e. This is Sally Jones, she’s a Doctor at the local Hospital, I’ll use that to parlay away from something work focused (what kind of doctor are you) to something more person focused, why did you want to become a doctor? Where did you go to Medical School? Did you know you always wanted to be a doctor? I try to focus on getting to know them better and have them talk about themselves.
The tips from the book support my intuition when meeting new people. They are:
- Become genuinely interested in other people
- Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language
- Be a good listener. Encourage to talk about themselves
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
How to Win People to your way of thinking
This section provided the most useful and helpful information (for me anyway!). It really leads to how to have better influence (than winning friends).
One of the problems I’ve suffered from throughout my life is the need to be right about a thing. This section has concrete tips and examples of how to not be the smartest person in the room, but working on being the most influential person in the room.
My favorite is the first one, which I’ll paraphrase to be “The only way to win an argument is to avoid it!” I’d never thought about trying to avoid arguments, only how to win them once I was in them. The idea reminds me a bit of War Games. At the end, Joshua, the super computer that is trying to figure out how to win a Nuclear War with the USSR, concedes that the only way to win is to not play at all. Just like an argument.
The other piece that really struck me was get the other person to say ‘Yes’. This is kind of sales-y and could be smarmy if used with a subtext of insincerity, but I think that the examples given in the book, and using it in the context of trying to win friends AND influence people it can go a long way.
The tips from this section of the book are:
- The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it
- Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “You’re wrong”
- If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically
- Begin in a friendly way
- Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately
- Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
- Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers
- Try honestly to see things from the other persons perspective
- BE sympathetic with the other persons ideas and desires
- Appeal to the nobler motives
- Dramatize your ideas
- throw down a challenge
Be a Leader: How to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment
This section has the best points, but the stories were very contrived. Again, this goes to how to win influence more than winning friends. Some of the items are a bit too 1930s for my taste (numbers 2, 3, and 6 in particular seem overly outdated). But overall, they are good ideas to work towards.
The tips are:
- Begin with praise and honest appreciation
- Call attention to the person’s mistake indirectly
- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person
- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders
- Let the other person save face
- Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise”
- Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to
- Use encouragement. make the fault seem easy to correct
- Make the other person gabby about doing the thing you suggest
I’ve been actively working to include these ideas into my work and home life and have found some surprising benefits. It’s also helping to make me a little less stressed out.
If you’re looking for a bit of help in trying to be a better influencer in your organization, or your personal life, this book is well worth the read.