Coffee House Readings #6:
How to win friends and influence people

Oh no! Not again. Yet another self-help book. That sounds manipulative on top of that…

Admittedly, this was the first thing that crossed my mind, when I read the title of this month’s book review. But somehow that title resonated with me and I asked myself: Well, how do we actually really win friends and influence people? How do we do that? And somehow I found myself thinking about my own social interactions, how I got to know people so far and why some of them turned into long, real friendships while others could not really make it. I started reading the book and realised that, in fact, I wasn’t reading a manipulative self-help book but a book about us, human beings, and how we function in social interactions.

The human need for authenticity

I believe that we all crave connections and true, authentic relationships with the people who surround us on a daily basis. And who is actually not familiar with a situation like this?

You enter a room full of people you absolutely don’t know, you start working somewhere and want to leave a good first impression to authentically connect with your colleagues as soon as possible, you want to convince people of an innovative idea etc., etc. The list goes on and on. We have all been there at some point in our lives. The questions are:

  • When and why do we like people? 
  • Why do we consider some of them pleasant while others don’t even stick in our memory? 
  • How can we manage to stick in other people’s memories (in a good way)?

Reading Dale Carnegie’s principles of How to win friends and influence people elicits a number of aha-moments, in which you feel like somebody managed to express something you already knew, but never conscioulsy thought about. I want to share some of these aha-moment principles with you:

1. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

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

As human beings, we all have this deep desire to feel and be important. And we all have our ways of satisfying and expressing this desire which “makes you want to wear the latest styles, drive the latest cars, and talk about your brilliant children.”, as Carnegie says. Therefore, making other people feel important and honestly appreciating their worth is the safest way to win somebody over. All the other principles Carnegie mentions in his book are just different forms of realizing this number one principle in social interactions.

2.  Become genuinely interested in other people

“Of course, you are interested in what you want. You are eternally interested in it. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want.”

Talk to people about what they want and, if you can, show them how to get it. Do things for other people that require time, energy, unseflishness and thoughtfulness. Remember their birthday. If you can do that, you can “make more friends in two months than you can by trying to get other people interested in you.” Because they are not. “They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves – morning, noon and after dinner.” And if you cannot stand this picture of egoistic and selfish mankind, just answer this question:

“When you see a group photograph that you are in, whose picture do you look for first?”

3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Most of the times we get introduced to strangers, we are so busy thinking of ourselves and our appearance that we don’t even concentrate on the name of that person standing in front of us. Remembering a person’s name is not just a small gesture; it’s a subtle and effective compliment.

“The name sets the individual apart; it makes him or her unique among all others. The information we are imparting or the request we are making takes on a special importance when we approach the situation with the name of the individual. From the waitress, to the senior executive. The name will work magic as we deal with others.”

4. Don’t criticise, condemn or complain.

There is almost no single person on earth that would not try to rationally explain his/her behavior after getting criticised for doing what he/she is doing. Think about it for a second. No one is doing the wrong thing for the sake of doing the wrong thing. We all try to justify our behavior with seemingly plausible reasons. Even convicted criminals “can tell you why they had to crack a safe or be quick on the trigger finger. Most of them attempt by a form of reasoning to justify their antisocial acts, constantly maintaining that they should never have been imprisoned at all.” Criticism only causes justification and criticism in return. It wounds a person’s precious pride and hurts his sense of importance. So, “instead of condemning people, figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.”, Carnegie says.

“Any fool can criticise, condemn and complain – and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”

However, if you can’t find the time to read the book, watch this short and interesting summary of How to win friends and influence people.

The best Viennese coffee house to read this book in

Café Siebenstern is probably one of the coziest and most beautiful coffee houses in Vienna. Its homely atmosphere is ideal to settle in and bury oneself in a good book. During summer Café Siebenstern offers an outdoor area in addition to its many comfortable corners to choose from for reading, working, talking, eating, drinking or just reflecting.

Café Siebenstern

Café Siebenstern

Photo Credit: Natalia Sanderson


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About Marija Barisic

Marija studies German and History at the University of Vienna and loves reading and writing about psychological and spiritual theories of human mind. She likes late-night-talks with open-minded people and getting to know different point of views.

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