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Motivating Your Learners Using Insights from a Famous Book

Dale Carnegie, Author of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ (Motto, 2018).

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion” (Dale Carnegie, 1936).

The team at Belvista Studios love a good book and the icing on the cake is when we find a book that enables us to be better at our craft. We are constantly on the lookout for how to better motivate and engage our learners, through creating meaningful experiences that make a positive difference to their lives. ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ is a book we found that enabled us to do just that but enough about us, let’s get into how this book can help you.

If you are passionate about creating meaningful learning solutions that motivate and engage learners, we suggest you take some time out to read the book or for the speedy version (because we all have a lot to do and probably a list of other books already on our list – we get it), give this blog a read! You won’t regret it.

In our opinion, learning is one of the most rewarding and important concepts on Earth. Without the process of learning, the world wouldn’t be where it is now. The work that you and we do in the learning and development industry is important and that’s why any strategies for creating better learning experiences is worth paying attention to.

“I was lucky enough to be given ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by a friend in the industry and to be honest, my intention of reading this book was to personally develop myself. It didn’t initially cross my mind that I could use the learnings from the book to design better learning solutions. I wasn’t far into the book before I realised that the learnings were absolutely aligned to creating engaging learning solutions. I got out a notepad to make notes and connections to our client projects immediately, I also made a note to share everything I was learning with the Belvista Studios team in our next catch-up. It almost felt like I had found a pot of gold and I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends in the industry.” (Hannah, 2018).

In this blog we will explore the top takeaways we took from the book as well as how we have used them to improve our learning solutions. We are sharing this blog in the hope that you will receive the same value that we have, so strap in for an injection of knowledge that we hope will make a real difference to your learning solutions. 

1. Avoid Criticising, Condemning or Complaining

Carnegie (1936) explains that, “Any fool can criticise, condemn, and complain – and most fools do”.

You can teach or show someone how to do something but telling them that they are doing it completely wrong in the first place is not the secret to success. Rather than providing someone with a valuable learning experience, it results in them building walls higher than you’ll ever be able to climb over.

How do you feel when someone tells you that you are straight out wrong? Is it a pleasant feeling? For most people it isn’t. It many cases it can lead to the person trying to justify themselves (even if they do realise, they are wrong). They would rather protect their pride and sense of self-importance than accept defeat and ‘be right’ (Farnham Street, 2018).

The same goes for learning experiences. The last thing you want to do is tell your learners that they are not doing a good job or have been doing something wrong previously. This is where language is crucial to gain buy-in. Avoid at all costs criticising, condemning or complaining within the learning solution or through its launch. Show understanding for the learner’s situation and current skill set and show them how the learning can positively impact their life.

2. What Does the Learner Want?

The best way to get someone to do something is by giving them what they want (Medium, 2017). How often do you put effort into understanding what your learners ‘want’ when you are designing a learning solution? Yes, we may spend time understanding what ‘we’ or ‘the company’ wants, such as better customer service results through providing customer service training, though how does this align with what the ‘learner’ wants?

Carnegie (1936) reveals the power of aligning what you are selling with the end-user’s needs, goals and success metrics.

So, how do you incorporate this into learning solutions?

At Belvista Studios, we used this technique for a project that we are currently working on and it has enabled us to tap into the motivation of the learners at a whole new level. The project we are working on is mandatory for learners to complete and the original language focused on how the training is ‘mandatory’ and ‘needs to be done’ with no mention of how it will impact the learners themselves. With our trusty ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ toolkit, we gained a deep understanding of what motivates the learners and how this training was going to positively support these motivations. Check out a rough example of what we did below for inspiration.

“We understand that by being in this industry you are passionate about BLAH. We also understand that the skills that you will learn from this course will enable you to do BLAH, which aligns with your passions and enables you to be the best you can be in your craft”.

3. Get the Learner saying “Yes, Yes” Immediately 

When we are talking to someone, if we want to get along with them, we should never begin with the points on which we disagree (Hubspot, 2018). If we need to convince someone of a new way of thinking or doing things, we should do everything in our power to keep them from saying, “No”. When a person says or thinks, “No”, they immediately withdraw themselves and create a guard against accepting the new way of doing that thing.

The same goes for learning solutions. We want our learners to know that we are on their level and have them agreeing with the learning outcomes and intent of the solution from the beginning. For example, you could ask reflective questions at the beginning of a learning solution that taps into the learner’s motivations such as:

- You are passionate about the work that you do, right?
- Do you want to make a difference in the work that you do?

Pointing out early that the learning solution aligns with their own goals supports buy-in from the learner that can have a significant impact on their engagement throughout the module.

4. Let the Learner Feel that the Idea is Theirs

Carnegie (1936) has a very valid point, you are much more likely to feel connected to an idea if you were able to think of it yourself. Wouldn’t you feel more strongly about an idea that you had over one that someone else had come up with? If this is the case, we need to stop forcing ideas on people. It’s much wiser to allow the person to think out the conclusion themselves (Hubspot, 2018).

Think about the learning solutions that you offer. How often are these solutions an idea or request from the learner? In many cases the learner may be sent a learning experience with no understanding of how the learning need arose or whose idea it even was to create it. This can result in them not feeling a connection with the learning, which can’t be good for engagement.

People like to be consulted on what they think and want. Designing a learning solution provides you with a great opportunity to do this. Ask your learners:

- How they best learn e.g. face-to-face, computer or mobile?
- What are their pain points?
- How can you best support them to learn the skill?
- What knowledge/skills do they already have related to the learning?

If you involve your learners in the design of the learning solution, you are much more likely to create buy-in and create a solution that appeals to them.

Those are our top takeaways from the ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ book. We hope that they add value to your learning solutions just like they have with ours. Whilst you may not always get the outcome you wish for through applying these techniques, from the experience of many who have read this book, they can make a difference. In the words of Dale Carnegie (1936) …

“There is only one way… to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it.”

If this blog has sparked your interest, you have questions, or you are considering using the principles for your eLearning solution please don’t hesitate to contact our passionate founder, Kim Tuohy on LinkedIn or by emailing


Amplemarket. (2017). Sales Books Summaries: Key lessons from How to Win Friends and Influence People. Retrieved from

Carnegie, D. (1936). How to Win Friends and Influence and Influence and People. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Farnham Street. (2018). The Best Summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People. Retrieved from

Hubspot. (2018). How to Win Friends and Influence People [Book Summary]. Retrieved from

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