How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age

'Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face.' This is the foundation of How to Win Friends & Influence People and it is still true today.

- How to Win Friends and Influence People in the (Digital) Age, Preface ix

In 1936 Dale Carnegie said, “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face.”  In 2012 it’s still true – because people are people. In fact it’s likely now that knowing how to effectively interact with people is an even bigger problem. Since the speed of communication is instantaneous, continuous and global we can interact with and affect more people a lot faster than we could in 1936 or even 10 years ago. And we have more formats in which to communicate than the 1936 face-to-face, telephone, letter, newspaper/magazine article.  In fact, the new formats, far from making Carnegie’s principles obsolete, make them more relevant than ever. The basis of winning friends and of influencing people is – people are people. If we don’t remember that we’ll think there’s something different about how we should communicate to win friends and influence people in the many new types of media (texting, email, chat/IM, social media).

Interestingly (particularly in light of technological advances since 1936) Carnegie said in the original book that, “…the person who has technical knowledge plus the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership and to arouse enthusiasm among people – that person is headed for higher earning power.”

Believe it or not, I’ve somehow made it through grad school, 3 leadership jobs, numerous board presidencies and 23 years as a trainer in a customized training company without reading Carnegie’s original book! What was I waiting for? This book is so easy to learn from with examples of how historical figures (Jesus to Lao-tse to Franklin D Roosevelt) implemented Carnegie’s principles and how ordinary folk like me can, too.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

The Right Foundation Will Save You

"If you don’t begin with the right foundation, it is easy to send the wrong message, to offend..."
- How to Win Friends and Influence People in the (Digital) Age, Preface ix

The same timeless, straightforward principles that keep the original book on the bestseller’s lists are viewed in this book through the lens of today’s mediums. Just a few of the Foundational Principles:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn or complain
  • Talk about others’ interests
  • If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and empathetically
  • Let others save face
  • Acknowledge your baggage
  • Connect with core desires
  • Magnify improvement

Amazingly the things Carnegie helped us learn almost 80 years ago are, for the most part, not only still true today but actually even more so. Now people have access to us all day and night. Now the new formats/mediums are more informal than ever and we can get a little sloppy causing people to take things differently than what we meant. Now the hyper-frequency with which we interact means way more communications per day, per hour than ever before. If you’re bad at people skills it’s now multiplied!

Look at just the Foundational Principles listed above. What’s the same about each of them?  They, like the rest of the principles, are conveyed through communication.  So, this book is actually about how to communicate with others in order to win them as friends and influence them.

Carnegie says that the two highest levels of influence are achieved when: 1) People follow you because of what you’ve done for them and 2) Because of who you are.  To make these two things happen you have to begin with the right foundation – that every communication (no matter if via new fangled digital or old school in-person/phone/letter) you use is filled with messages that build trust, convey gratitude and add value to the recipients.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Small opportunities can make the biggest difference

"Always leave people a little better and you might be surprised how big it makes you and how far it takes you."
- How to Win Friends and Influence People in the (Digital) Age, page 95

Leave others a little better is one of the Foundational Principles and with 27-30 of them to choose from,you may wonder why is this one insight #1.  If you implement any of the others you always achieve this one.  Many of us subscribe to this principle but aren’t successful at implementing it because of our definition of leaving people a little better. We aim too high. We label leaving them better as “become President”, “get their business in the top 10 of the INC 500”, “have a marriage without controversy”, “have employees who always meet their objectives”.  And so success to us is only achieved when we help others achieve these lofty goals.  Rarely is this going to happen.

Instead, we need to actively look for small opportunities to leave people a little better. The huge opportunities aren’t up to us. We affect some small ones and, as a result, the recipient is positioned to move his or herself a little closer toward whatever greatness is for them.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Choose the medium that carries the meaning

"It takes creativity and a bit more time to replicate the effect of a warm smile and a firm handshake, but it can be done."
- How to Win Friends and Influence People in the (Digital) Age, page 129

In the original, Carnegie didn’t need to address the importance of the choice of medium to carry the meaning of the interaction, as he had so few mediums to deal with.  But today – imagine using Twitter’s 140 characters or less to give constructive feedback to an employee. Yes, the more to the point constructive feedback is the better but it needs to be done in real time so people can immediately ask questions and get the answers they need to come to the same understanding of what happened and what needs to change.  The face-to-face or at least telephone or IM mediums, though lending themselves to wordiness, are the way to keep people from getting defensive by jumping to conclusions.

Imagine what would have happened if Franklin D Roosevelt had posted on Facebook,  “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” Yes, Facebook is an effective way to inform a lot of people about something all at the same moment. It is important that very dire and emotional facts should be heard all at the same time and from one person in order to reduce rumors and the escalation of emotion if taken in a way the speaker didn’t intend. But it’s just those high emotion issues that need the facial expressions, tone of voice and pacing that you can only get in-person or at least by some verbal and visual means.


This is one of those rare How-to books you can’t put down.  It is the true definition of a page turner. I wrote about another book recently whose principles were purported to “change your life” once you started implementing them. And it was true.  This book will change your life just from reading it – better if you implement the principles, but just reading it gives you a vision of what you’ve been doing to shoot yourself in the foot all these years (“ah, so that’s why that person flew off the handle when I said …!,”, “If only I had read this book before that conversation last week I’d not have lost that client!”). And those kinds of visions are some pretty powerful motivators to improve.

Read the principles, believe the principles, implement the principles, pass the principles on to others and you’ll become a person others look to for opinions, advice and leadership.

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Carolyn B. Thompson

ABOUT Carolyn B. Thompson

I’m proud to be a Renaissance Man – dog mom, singer, water skier, Christian, gardener, trainer, business owner, cook, baker, swimmer, reader, crafts, Christmas decorator, vegetable lover who eats fish & meat, mocha drinker, iced tea drinker, believer that chocolate desserts are a major food group, walker/runner, exerciser, movie watcher, writer, former work road warrior mainly to do conference keynotes & bookstores, 3 children in their mid-30s w/5 grandchildren under 6 yrs old.
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