The 5 Most Important Lessons From “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the all-time greatest self-help books_._ It’s an absolutely timeless classic that teaches real, genuine emotional intelligence.

Since its initial release in 1936 during the Great Depression, the book has sold more the 30 Million copies making it one of the best selling books of all time. Today, the practical lessons from the book are being applied by millions worldwide to achieve success in their business and personal lives.

How to Win Friends and Influence People is the book to read when it comes to learning people skills. Here are the 5 most important lessons from the book.


#1 Avoid negativity

One of the most important things about emotional intelligence is how you people remember you. Whether they remember you with good memories or bad ones depends a lot on the conversations you have. That’s why it’s important to avoid negativity in those conversations.

“Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain” is the first chapter in the book for a reason: those are all negative things. No one likes to listen to someone talk about how bad their day was or how mean their boss is. It puts down the mood in the room and just isn’t pleasant at all to hear. The same thing goes for negative topics, like talking about war, poverty, or other political events on the news.

If you want to leave a great impression on someone, focus on the positive.

Examples

  • If someone asks you “how’s work?” try to talk about the things you like about your job. If you really don’t like your current job at all, switch topics. Try to guide the conversation to things that you do like as they’ll be much easier to talk about in a positive way
  • Avoid talking about things on the news which are usually negative and can easily cause conflict. Instead, aim for fun topics people can relate to like movies, sports, or some other hobby that you know the people in the group would like

#2 Put yourself in their shoes

Most people’s failures with emotional intelligence come from being too selfish. By nature, we think of ourselves first and others second. But in order to get along with people better, it’s important to put yourself in their shoes.

For example, let’s say that you love sports, so with most people you meet that’s what you try to talk about. But what if the other person doesn’t like sports at all? You’ll totally turn them off with the conversation.

Instead, think of what the other person wants and frame the conversation around that.

Examples

  • If they like a certain topic, talk about that. Figure out if they like sports, video games, fashion, technology, or whatever else. They’ll love that they get to talk about something they actually like
  • Listen more than you speak. People love to talk about themselves, so encourage them to do so. Keep asking questions or making statements that prompt them to keep on talking.
  • Make them feel good and important with your words. You can do this by giving genuine compliments and praise when necessary. People love to be recognized for their achievements, so give them that

#3 Be likeable

Who is the most likable person you know? I bet they’re friendly and pleasant. I bet they give a firm handshake and a nice smile to everyone new that they meet. I bet they’re charming and great at conversation.

Being likable is the bare minimum for winning friends and influencing people. It’s simple: people like to interact with other people they like and get along with. Sure, it’s great to have the adventurer friend and the crazy friend and the super funny friend. But for all of those, we start with one basic requirement: Do I like this person?

It’s all about developing basic people skills.

Examples

  • When you first meet someone, give them a firm handshake, and introduce yourself. Ask for their name and some basic icebreaker questions to get to know them
  • Smile and make eye contact when you’re conversing. Dress for the outing that you are attending. Be friendly and polite
  • Acknowledge people. Whether you’re at a meeting, party, or with random people, make sure everyone gets some attention from you

#4 Stay away from conflict

It feels great to win an argument, getting that feeling of superiority! Unfortunately, it isn’t much help when it comes to getting along with people.

When you argue with someone, and you win, then you’ll walk away feeling great. But you’ll also damage the relationship because by you winning and feeling great you made the other person lose and feel bad. They’re walking away with a negative memory of you.

That goes for all kinds of conflicts too. If the person you’re having a disagreement or conflict with is someone who you wish to be friends with, it will do you absolutely no good to win and make them feel bad. The only way to truly win is to avoid conflict entirely.

Examples

  • Never say “you’re wrong.” Show respect for the other person’s opinion. If they truly are incorrect, try to guide them to the correct answer and let them discover it on their own
  • If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. People will appreciate your honesty and the fact that you’re not fighting them just to prove yourself
  • Avoid arguments completely. If someone starts arguing with you, get out of there by deflecting their prompts for your response. You can say “I’m not sure at the moment, I’d have to think about that”

#5 Understand and use human psychology

The key to emotional intelligence is understanding people. That starts with learning about how our brains really tick with psychology and then applying what we learn.

We all have psychological biases and tendencies that we follow. We feel good when given praise, we like to feel important, we have an ego. No one likes backing down from a challenge and everyone likes to be recognized for great achievements. These can all be used to win friends and influence people.

Examples

  • If someone makes a mistake, let them save face before you jump in to criticize them
  • If someone achieves something important to them, be sure to give ample praise
  • If someone helps you out, be sure to tell them “thank you” and give genuine words of appreciation
  • If you want someone to do something for you, frame your ask in a way that sounds more like it has something in it for them
  • If you have to give orders, do so indirectly. Make it sound like more of a question. “Do you think you can have this done by Friday” is a lot better than “I need this done by Friday”
  • Put your faith in people to motivate them. Saying something like “I know you’ll do a great job” will motivate them to live up to the expectation

In Summary

How to Win Friends and Influence Peopleis the best book for learning people skills and emotional intelligence. These are the 5 most important lessons from the book:

  • Avoid negativity — Keep your conversations positive so people have good memories about you
  • Put yourself in their shoes — Focus on the other person’s emotions over your own
  • Be likable — People have to like you first as a bare minimum to associate with you. Adopt a polite yet charming demeanor
  • Stay away from conflict — When you win a conflict, you make the other person feel bad for losing anyways. Best to avoid them entirely
  • Understand and Use Human Psychology — All people respond positively to things like praise, appreciation, and a feeling of importance. Learn and apply human psychology so you can make people feel those things

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