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How to Win Friends & Influence People

Basic rules for how to make a good first impression

By Dale Carnegie
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends & Influence People (1936) provides a masterclass in managing and dealing with people. From making a good first impression to disagreeing effectively, it contains all you need to know about becoming skillful, pleasant, and assured in your personal and business dealings.

Key idea 1 of 8

Praise is more effective than criticism.

When you hear the name Al Capone, a few associations probably spring to mind – like mob violence, corruption, and criminal protection rackets.

Whatever you know about the famous gangster, you probably don’t think of him as a do-gooder or public benefactor. But one man did – Capone himself. As he put it, “I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.” The notorious mobster who terrified Chicago believed that, deep down, he was a good man.

What can we learn from this? Well, like Al Capone, we tend to believe we’re in the right, no matter what we’ve done. But if we struggle to criticize ourselves, just imagine how we feel when we’re criticized by others.

The key message here is: Praise is more effective than criticism.

The problem with criticizing people is that it puts them on the defensive. People take it personally when they’re told they’re in the wrong. Their natural instinct is to justify their behavior. What’s worse, people tend to bear lasting grudges against those who criticize them, even if the criticism was well-intentioned.

So what’s the solution? It’s true that people need to be urged to change their ways from time to time. But if we can’t help them by criticizing them, what can we do?

The answer’s simple: we can praise them. Everyone wants to feel valued and important, and a few words of appreciation can get you closer to your desired result than any amount of criticisms and complaints. 

That was the philosophy of Charles Schwab, a phenomenally successful steel magnate. According to Schwab, his ability to manage people was the key to his success in business. Unlike most senior businesspeople, Schwab tried to criticize others as little as possible. Instead, he focused on praising them.

In his decades of business experience, Schwab found that you can achieve far more by encouraging and praising people than you can by criticizing them. Praise inspires us to work harder and better, and makes our relationships much warmer.

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