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How Can We Influence People during Online Learning and Conversations?

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

by F. Z.

In this second article, I will continue to use ideas from Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People to explain how to influence people in the ‘New Normal’ virtual world.

How to Convince People to your Way of Thinking?

1. Avoid arguments, and always show respect for the other person’s opinions and ideas.

“Nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly than ever that he is right," wrote Dale Carnegie.

Almost all of the courses at university will involve some group assignments. This kind of coursework is designed to evaluate students’ ability to share ideas, to come up with novel solutions, as well as to develop the crucial skills of team working, collaboration, and interpersonal communications.

More often than not, students are going to have some challenges in tackling group assignments, due to conflicting ideas or just simply, clash of personalities. To avoid an argument in group situations or even in our day-to-day personal lives, never begin by announcing “I am going to prove so-and-so to you.”

As advised by Dale Carnegie, that's equivalent of saying: “I’m smarter than you are. I’m going to tell you a thing or two and make you change your mind.” In the current Digital Age, we can still avoid any forms of virtual arguments by using a little diplomacy.

First, we need to learn how to control our temper.

Secondly, we need to be a good listener by giving everyone a chance to share their ideas.

Thirdly and most importantly, look for areas of agreement, and be honest on our feedbacks by studying every opinion and idea carefully. The wise old Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States used to say: “If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.”

2. Dramatise your ideas, but if you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.

During our time at university, our educators will encourage us to talk and present our work to large audiences. The audiences include our classmates or people from the industry. Doing a presentation is an excellent opportunity to prepare us for the real world – to develop our self-confidence as well as to improve our ability to conduct impactful talk.

When we are assigned to deliver a presentation, we should aim to do it correctly, so that we could get good grades. However, if we want the attention and approval from our lecturers and audiences, we need to understand the power of dramatisation.

Dramatisation is used by film and television directors. News shows know that merely stating a truth is not enough. We need to use the power of dramatisation to deliver a presentation that shows an enormous amount of interesting facts and examples. Convey the facts more vividly, more interestingly, and more impressively, rather than just using slides or pages of figures. Then you will be successful in selling and convincing the audience of your ideas or research findings.

After finishing a presentation, we will be challenged with various types of questions.

Being human, everyone wants the feeling of importance, including our examiners, audiences, and ourselves, too. Also, naturally, we will always try to defend ourselves and win people to our way of thinking.

Moreover, anyone will try to defend his or her mistakes, rather than admitting to the mistake. Dale Carnegie emphasised that there is a certain degree of satisfaction in having the courage to admit one’s errors. It not only clears the air of guilt and defensiveness but often helps solve the problem created by mistake. Remember the old proverb: "By fighting you never get enough, but by yielding, you get more than you expected."

3. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view and be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.

As university students, our lecturers will assign us a long list of reading materials. We will be asked to analyse the materials critically and to develop our assessments and opinions. Generally, the main aim of this task is to improve our critical thinking skills as well as to train us to become independent thinkers.

However, drawn from my case study of some sort, I sometimes find it tricky to challenge any established researchers’ findings and arguments as I know they have more research experiences and knowledge than I do as a student. I always wonder, what is the best way to argue about other people's point of view diplomatically?

The same goes in any team or group settings where different team members have conflicting ideas and opinions on a specific subject area. The best way to tackle this kind of challenge is to try to listen to and understand different concepts by refraining from unconsciously condemning them. Instead, try to put yourself in other people's place honestly. Wouldn't you like to have a magic phrase that would stop arguments, eliminate ill feeling, create goodwill, and make the other person listen attentively?

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou.

Dale Carnegie suggested this phrase in his book: “I don’t blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you, I would undoubtedly feel just as you do.” Dr. Arthur I. Gates said in his splendid book Educational Psychology: “Sympathy the human species universally craves. The child eagerly displays his injury; or even inflicts a cut or bruise to reap much sympathy. For the same purpose adults, show their bruises, relate their accidents, illness, especially details of surgical operations. ‘Self-pity’ for misfortunes real or imaginary is, in some measure, practically a universal practice.”

Hence, based on Dale Carnegie’s opinion, if you want to convince people of your way of thinking, put in practise: “Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.” By applying this, you will not only have the key to other people’s actions, ideas, and personality, but you will also provide yourself with the opportunity to increase your skill in human relationships sharply.

In a nutshell, the book How to Win Friends and Influence People Book by Dale Carnegie has taught me the fine arts of balancing human psychology and the ability to express my thinking and original ideas with confidence and enthusiasm. It covers the vital but little understood elements of human relationships and the ability to get along with other people. This knowledge is crucial not only in our professional, social, and personal settings, but also to our attitudes and overall satisfaction and enjoyment of life.



Carnegie, D (1936). How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York, NY: Pocket Books. 1-269.


F. Z. did a Bachelor of E-Commerce degree at Multimedia University, Malaysia prior to completing a MSc in Logistics and Operations Management at Cardiff University. Following this she undertook a MRes in Urban Sustainability and Resilience at University College London. She is now conducting interdisciplinary research into supply chain resilience and consumer behaviour during natural disasters at University College London (Civil, Environmental and Geomatics Engineering Department).

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