In the very back of Kaj's excellent How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup Group booklet, he has a recommended reading section, including the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

It just so happens that not only have I read the book myself, but I have written up a concise summary of the core advice here. Kaj suggested that I post this on the discussion section because others might find it useful, so here you go!

I suspect that more people are willing to read a summary of a book from the 1930s than an actual book from the 1930s. What I will say about reading the long-form text is that it can be more useful for internalizing these concepts and giving examples of them. It is far too easy to abstractly know what you need to do, much harder to actually take action on those beliefs...

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

People love to hear their own name.

People who have read this book seem to think it is polite or pleasant to repeatedly use a person's first name in conversation.

Perhaps it was so, in the 1930s. However, I suspect that something has changed since then, namely, the popularity of this book with salespeople. Today, repeatedly using a person's name in conversation makes you sound like an overly ingratiating salesperson who's read Dale Carnegie. Don't do this; it's creepy.

It's easy to overdo, but there's still a ways to slide up the spectrum before it comes off that way. You can be like "Bob, what do you think?", instead of "Hey, what do you think" plus looking at Bob intently. Also works okay while delivering a compliment - "Bob, you're hilarious!".

True enough. Most of the incidents I'm thinking of involved using the person's name as an aside — "Well, what I'd do, Bob, is analyze the process ... you see, Bob, we can leverage the underlying synergies and push the envelope on the business plan, Bob ..."

Yes. I would add greetings and farewells to the class of social contexts in which addressing someone by his or her name is desirable. 'Hi, Bob' and 'Bye, Tina' are almost always preferable to 'Hi' and 'Bye', respectively.

Probably the optimal place to use someone's name is in close proximity to the nicest thing you're going to say in the conversation. This may train them to feel good when you say their name, at which point you probably start saying it at the start of the conversation too, to put things on a good footing.

There's another effect - using someone's name helps you remember them better, and makes them feel that they should remember your name.

But yeah, easy to overdo. To misquote Pratchett: "As there are only two of us in this conversation, I don't need reminders about my own name."

Don't do it repeatedly, sure, but do it at least once in each conversation, I'd expect.

Leil Lowndes' How to Talk to Anyone is written as a sort of modern sequel to HtWFaIP according to the author, I found it worthwhile.

I got the audiobook.

As a side-note, professionally produced audiobooks tend to be read by people with very pleasing voices to listen to, which adds an additional incentive to listening to them.

Which revision? The original text has been extensively rewritten since the original, including new illustrative stories from after the original author's death.

A revision recent enough to include an anecdote about Stevie Wonder. I'm aware (and was aware at the time) that the original is often deemed to be less diluted by late 20th Century sensibilities. I took the trade-off so I could listen to it while walking to work.

Yeah, that's the 1981 edition (if there hasn't been an even sooner one). It's still damn fine.

Update 2021: The original link is dead. Link to the current version, archived for posterity:


I'd recommend the book to anyone, even if only for its historical value as one of the lasting early[1] self-help books (together with Napoleon Hill's, I guess). There are some good insights in the book that are worth following.

However, it shares some of the problems that many modern self-help books have as well: very high on anecdote and broad generalizations, yet very light on evidence, or even considering alternative explanations for observations.

[1] Of course, self-help books are as least as old as Marcus Aurelius' Meditations...

Thank you.

Since I presume you have read the book, may I ask, how did it work for you?

I'm very interested in upping my social skills.


Oddly enough, I decided to read the book after I had already optimized my social skills. It was basically a recap of most of what I already had stumbled upon! I realized it would only take me several more hours to summarize what I had read, so decided to do it to provide value for others.

Knowing the OP personally, I can attest to very high social skills at the point when I met him at NYC meetups. I don't know if this was always the case, but he came off as a natural.

Actually, if you're interested in improving your social skills, check out the rest of our website!

Click the "Social Effectiveness Book" on the top link to read our free book online.

Dear Cosmos

Thank you for you answer. I'm not too shabby, that is I can easily turn a stranger into an acquaintance or lover. It's from acquaintance to friend, and finding acquaintances I'd like to be friends with that I could improve (which translates to chapters 4 and 5 of your book, which sadly are not available). Please do update when they are.

The section on not-arguing seems exactly in line with my thought on the matter. Well, I'd qualify "never tell others that they are wrong" a bit more - I'd say you should make sure it's factually true, and make sure that the person has practice in admitting mistakes in this area (think math students in math). But if those conditions hold, you can save a lot of time and condescension.

Anyhow, instead of making a post out of not-arguing like I'd half-planned, I may just fillet Carnegie.

I once skimmed "How to win friends and influence people". I didn't read enough to have a good opinion of the advice (I suspect djcb's description of it being fairly good advice as long as the author's experience generalises well, which HTWFAIP probably does better than many but not perfectly).

However, what had a profound influence on me was that though there's an unfortunate stereotype of people who've read too much Carnegie seeming slimy and fake, the author seemed to genuinely want to like people and be nice to them, which I thought was lovely.

Here is a useful cheat sheet:

I would recommend reading the book or listening to the audiobook, it is actually a pretty engaging read, ab it heavy on the business examples though. You do need to put effort into developing 5 second skills and heuristics for it to be all that useful, otherwise it is just a load of points that sits in the back of your mind.

I would also recommend The Teaching Company's "Effective Communication Skills" if you want more on the subject.

Thanks! I always wind up googling the basic rules for a crash-course review every time I really want to make a good impression.