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6 mins

Powers of Persuasion: Win Friends Over With Tips from Dale Carnegie

Author of the 1936 self-help classic How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie, knew a thing or two about getting people on-side for great ideas—or hare-brained schemes!
by Carrie M. King | Aug 8 2019

There are few things more exciting in the world than the feeling of a new idea. Most often however, ideas need consensus and support to actually get off the ground and if you struggle to convince other people of the merits of what’s bubbling in your brain, your plans may never see the light of day. Developing persuasive techniques that will have other people happily excited to get behind your next venture—and make you more likeable in the process, too—is essential if you want to make an impact on the world.

Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People speaks to exactly these challenges and as a result, has been a perennial bestseller ever since it was first published in 1936. It has become a cornerstone of the self-help market because it covers topics at the very core of being a person: how to like and be liked. Though the depth and flavour of each individual’s friendships and relationships will vary, we all require some kind of network in order to function at our best in this world. If people like you, whether you’re selling someone a car or an idea, or having an argument with a friend, you’re more likely to succeed.

This classic has taught millions of people how to make friends, how to be more likeable in general, and how to use persuasive techniques to get other people behind your big ideas. It’s really worth reading in full—as much for its prose as its pointers—but if you only have a few minutes to spare, why not check out the key ideas from this title on Blinkist? If you have just one minute, then have a look at the video above where Page and Turner explain one key persuasive technique to get people behind all your big ideas! Right now, though, let’s have a look at a couple of tips that you can use to make friends, influence people, and get your ideas moving!

Dale Carnegie Knew How To Make Friends

As well as being the bearer of a rather fantastic name, Dale Harbison Carnegie, was a famous writer and lecturer, who became best-known for his blockbuster books, How To Win Friends and Influence People, and How To Stop Worrying and Start Living. The books speak to some of the fundamental concerns at the heart of being human: how to live a good life, how to make friends, how to get people to care about what you care about, and how to do work that matters to you. Here, we’ll focus on some of the key ideas from the former, to help you learn how to get people on-side, and why it’s important to sincerely care about other people and their opinions, and not just pretend that you do.

Watch Your Language

In the video above, Page and Turner explain how the language and tone that you choose to use when arguing for something you believe in can have a huge effect on how people receive your ideas. Personally, there are few things that get my back up like someone telling me what to do, that they know better than me, or trying to argue me down using aggressive language and stern tones. As it turns out, I’m not alone in that. Most people will dig their heels in when someone is trying to get them on side by arguing that they’re wrong. To win people over to your side of an argument, it’s much more effective to keep your tone level, and to use gentle phrases like, “I imagine…,” rather than, “I’m certain that…”.

Take for example, Benjamin Franklin, who actively changed his reckless, forthright way of speaking when a friend warned him that he was losing friends and allies because of it. He made it a habit to never openly oppose other people or to shout them down, and even gave up using words like “certainly”, and “undoubtedly” as he felt their rigidity were the hallmarks of an unbending mindset. He switched instead of using phrases like, “I conceive”, or “I imagine.” This worked in his favor, because, upon reflection he was shrewd enough to realize that by telling someone they’re wrong, you in effect say that you’re smarter than they are. And oddly enough, people tend not to respond all that well to being told they’re stupid.

If, in the future, you want to win someone over in an argument, the best way is to take a gentle, humble approach and to remain open-minded yourself. Use phrasing such as, “I thought differently, though I could be wrong. Why don’t we take a look at the facts together?”, to not only make the other person feel listened to, and to make sure that you’re both seeking out the truth rather than bulldozing your way to a desired outcome. Not only will you be more likely to win them over, but they’ll actually like you for doing it.

Think Twice Before You Criticize

How do you normally react when someone criticizes you? If you’re like most people, you probably get defensive and feel personally attacked. But there is a better way to approach telling someone that they’ve made a mistake. Show them that you trust they can do better and understand that making mistakes is already a route to doing better next time. If someone—a friend, or a co-worker—makes a mistake, it’s better to trust them with the same task again to show that you have faith in their abilities, rather than to call them out and embarrass them. This is a far more persuasive technique, according to Dale Carnegie, than chewing someone out for a simple mistake. Their gratitude for your kindness and understanding will stand to the relationship in the long run, have a bigger impact on those around you, and make them more likely to be supportive of you in future.

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People

People’s behavior changes more readily in response to kindness rather than punishment, so if you start screaming at someone or berating them, they’ll just want to fight back and resent you in the long term. Criticism is easier, of course, but in finding ways to accept the shortcomings and mistakes of others, you show true strength of character, and you create a sense of safety and calm that will encourage that person to come to you about struggles they might have in the future.

Show Your Appreciation

Though it’s a good idea to be sparing with criticism, you should shout your appreciation from the rooftops. There’s a common trend that people’s work is only recognized when they make a mistake, which, in itself, is a mistake. Gratitude and appreciation should be shared frequently, in a way that feels genuine and meaningful. Don’t just tell someone you think they’re awesome. Give specific, considered praise to ensure the person knows that you see the work they do and have thought about it.

“The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned.”
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People

Carnegie may have been born well over a hundred years before the advent of social media, but he knew that one of the strongest drivers of human behavior is the desire to be appreciated and praised by others. Craving for that approval makes people climb mountains, write books, and found companies. You don’t need to go overboard, but a simple “thank you” could make a world of difference. And you don’t have to limit it to those close to you. Be grateful and kind to cashiers, postal workers, bus drivers—whoever you happen to meet on any given day. Not only will they feel better after the encounter—so will you!

Focus Less on Being Interesting, More on Being Interested

When people think about how to make friends, or how to be persuasive, they often feel like they need to be more interesting, to cultivate their personality in ways that will make people flock to them. But the reality is not so complicated. The most interesting people are those who allow their natural curiosity to shine through, who focus less on themselves and what they’re trying to achieve but more on the person they’re talking to and the world around them.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People

If you panic at the thought of making conversation, there’s a simple solution. Ask the person genuine questions about whatever it is that they’re interested in. Being a good, interested listener will most often leave the other person with the impression that you’re fascinating. Becoming a good listener will also mean you learn a lot, and then when it comes your turn to speak about something, you’ll have all of this interesting conversational material right on the tip of your tongue. Most people like to talk about themselves, and so by facilitating their desire to do so, you become instantly interesting to them. Don’t think or worry about what you’re going to say next. Instead, focus on active listening and you’ll suddenly find conversation easier than you ever imagined.

For more methods about how to make people like you and get them on-side for future ventures, check out the key insights to How to Make Friends & Influence People on Blinkist.

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