The Art of People by Dave Kerpen book summary and pdf

The Art of People by Dave Kerpen [Book Summary & PDF]

The Art of People is a guide written by Dave Kerpen on how to manage some of the most important people and relationships in your life. Kerne emphasises that people matter. They matter more than anything, in managing your job, career, life and relationships. People can make all the difference between an average life and a great life. This book has 11 handy tips on how to understand people, build better relationships and get the most out of relationships.





Who is this summary for?

We all have relationships whether they are personal or work-related so this book really is a great read for anyone. The Art of People is a guide written by Dave Kerpen on how to manage some of the most important people and relationships in your life. Kerne emphasises that people matter. They matter more than anything, in managing your job, career, life, and relationships. People can make all the difference between an average life and a great life.

About the author

Dave Kerpen considers himself to be a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and author. The Art of People is his fourth New York Times best-seller. Kerpen spends a lot of his time presenting keynote speeches all around the world and is the co-founder and CEO of Likable Media, a social media marketing firm. Kerpen has recently undertaken the role of interim CEO at UMA Health, an online mental health coaching marketplace. Kerpen lives in New York with his wife and three children.

In this summary

This book has 11 handy tips on how to understand people, build better relationships and get the most out of relationships. We’ll briefly cover each of the 11 tips in this summary. First, aim to understand yourself and others. Second, focus on meeting the right people. Third, learn how to read other people. Fourth, learn how to connect with people. Fifth, be influential. Sixth, changing minds. Seventh, be a teacher. Eighth, be a leader. Ninth, learn how to resolve conflict. Tenth, be inspirational. Finally, understand that happiness is key.



Kerne explains that self-awareness should be at the core of the art of people. It’s so important to understand yourself and how you function before you’ll be able to truly understand anyone else.

Kerne recommends you take action and try to get to know yourself as soon as possible. Try to establish if you are a leader, a follower, or a people pleaser. Everyone falls into different categories and it’s best to know where you fit before you try to attempt to understand others. It’s also important to understand how you interact with people and what kind of relationship you usually have with others.

It’s not all about liking someone

Kerne explains that even if you don’t like someone, you are still able to ‘get’ them. Having a deeper understanding of someone is always going to be beneficial, whether you like them as a person or not.

Kerne recommends that you take on a challenge. Consider three people you know that you don’t get, people whose company you don’t particularly enjoy. Reach out to them and ask to meet for coffee. When you meet, dedicate your time to getting to know this person and aiming to understand what makes them tick. It’s likely that you’ll leave the meeting not liking them any more than you did before, but you’ll understand them better. This means you’ll have a chance to built a beneficial relationship with them.

First encounters

It’s pretty understandable that you know your friends a lot better than you do someone you just met. However, Kerne has a few tips you can use when you first meet someone to speed up the process and understand who they are. Rather than the usual ‘what do you do for a living’ or ‘where do you live’ consider a few of the following questions:

  • In your professional life, what do you think is the most exciting thing?
  • And in your personal life, what is exciting you the most at the moment.
  • If money wasn’t an issue, would you be doing something different?
  • In five years from now, what would you ideally like to be doing?
  • Do you have a favourite charity organisation? Why do you choose them?
  • Who is a role model to you and why?
  • Who in your life has been significantly influential to you?
  • What do you think your favourite teacher would say about you?

”These questions not only break the ice, they quickly get people talking about the things that really matter, the things that will reveal their true personalities: their values, their likes, their hopes, and their passions.”

Don’t be interesting, be interested

Kerne points out something we all know to be true, humans love to talk about themselves. This is a fact and something that’s not going to change. The reality is that whenever you are having a conversation, almost everyone would rather be talking about themselves than listening to someone else. So, there’s your chance to tap in, listen to what they say, be attentive and start learning and understanding more about someone.

Kerne explains that listening is harder than it sounds, most of the time we passively listen. We simply wait for our chance to talk. Instead, you need to adopt the habit of actively listening and actually caring about what the other person is saying. Kerne points out that this takes focus and practice but it will almost always strengthen your relationships.

”Remember that people care more about themselves than they care about you. People want to talk about themselves. Listening and letting people talk is key to winning them over in life, in business, and in all human relationships.”

'Listening and letting people talk is key to winning them over in life, in business, and in all human relationships.'Click To Tweet

We all want connections

Another thing that humans crave is connection. Often humans are lonely and feel isolated, searching for connections with people to fill the gap. This is why Kerne believes that authentically listening and connecting with people is so important. By doing this you’ll improve their move, their sense of being and help them feel less alone. You’ll be in a position of power with them and able to have influence over them. Kerne emphasise the importance of being authentic in doing this, you can’t be doing this with a selfish ulterior motive. It’s important that you are developing the relationships because it’s the right thing to do for both of you.


”There’s a simple key to networking that nobody talks about. Standing out from the crowd, you want to be noticed. In a room full of people trying to get noticed, you need a point of difference.”

Kerne identifies a few ways that you can help yourself stand out in a crowd. He acknowledges that many people will see this as unnecessary or something that doesn’t really work, but there’s no harm in trying! Kerne suggests you wear an attention-grabbing piece of clothing, something that stands out and is potentially a conversation started. Consider bright clothing or shoes, a statement scarf or tie. Something that people will notice and be encouraged to chat with you about.

Meeting people

Kerne believes that LinkedIn is one of the most important social networks out there. He emphasises the importance of using it in the right way so you can connect with almost anyone you want. Here’s how you should use it:

  • Start by creating a profile. Detail all of the schools you attended, the education you received, organisations you worked for and groups you’ve been a member out.
  • It’s important not to leave anything out, the more on your profile, the more likely you are to connect with people who have something in common with you.
  • Instantly connect with people you work with or attended school with. This will immediately improve your second-degree connection ability.
  • If there’s someone you’d particularly like to meed, search them on LinkedIn and find a mutual connection. (This should be easy if you’ve covered all of your bases). Ask the mutual connection to introduce you and hopefully, you can set up a meeting.


Kerne recommends establishing your own advisory board. This can contain anywhere from seven to eleven people. Your advisory board is designed to help you reach your pre-established goals. It’s important to select the right people and understand how each of them will be beneficial in aiding you to reach these goals. Kerne recommends having at least 50% of the board made up of people you already know. Have a minimum of two people that you’ve never met but have mutual connections with. Once you’ve established who you want on your advisory board, invite them and establish where you will meet and how regularly. Also, identify any compensation that you wish to offer.

Hiring and firing

Kerne is a firm believer in the motto of hiring slow and firing first. This goes for both professional and personal relationships. He recommends you take some time to consider people in your life that you may have rushed into ‘hiring’ and they aren’t serving their purpose. These people need to be fired and let go. Consider friends, acquaintances, and employees.

On the opposite side, you need to hire slow. Don’t rush into intense relationships with people before you know it’s right. Take your time and get to know each other before you dive into a commitment. Again this goes for both personal and professional relationships.

”Take your time letting them into your inner circle, but don’t be afraid to toss them out the second it stops feeling right.”

Blowing people off

Another part of being human is the need to be liked. This desire to always be seen as a nice person can actually harm you in the long run. It can mean you give your time away to anyone that asks, regardless of how beneficial it may or may not be for you. People who ask a lot of you often don’t offer anything in return. And these are the people you should be blowing off.

On the other end of the scale, we are all busy and often can’t afford to give people our time. Sometimes when you are unsure about the value someone can offer you, you’ll blow them off without giving them a chance. Although this can work in your favour, sometimes you might be missing out on valuable opportunities.

Take the time to evaluate people and relationships before committing time to them or blowing them off completely.


We’ve already discussed the importance of listening to other people. Kerne really emphasises the importance of understanding that listening isn’t simply hearing. In order to truly listen you need to be consciously paying attention to what some else is saying. You need to make a conscious attempt to understand what they are saying and what it means. Consider what is important to them and why.

”Listening is the act at any given moment of caring more about what someone else has to say than anything else in the world. Listening is hard—a lot harder than you might think.”Click To Tweet

Listen with your eyes

Kerne explains that you need to learn how to listen with your eyes not just your ears. He identifies a number of nonverbal signs and cues that people often use and explains what they mean. Here’s a list of what you should be looking out for:

  • Pay attention to peoples facial expressions, little smiles or frowns, raised eyebrows or crinkled foreheads.
  • Does their posture change? Consider their body movements and whether they look comfortable or not.
  • Often people talk with their hands, pay attention to waves, pointing and animated speaking.
  • Maintain eye contact throughout and see if they do also.
  • Pay attention to the physical space you are both consuming. Are you close or distant? Space can communicate signs of intimacy, closeness or anger and distance.
  • Also remember to pay attention to how someone is talking, listen to their tone of voice, does it change, what does it communicate?

Kerne recommends using mirroring as a tool to improve your connections with people. But again, it’s important that you are doing this authentically. You can’t simply repeat back what you’ve heard while seeming insincere. The key to making mirroring work is to actually care.

”People, in general, don’t want advice even when they ask for it. They just want to feel heard. As you practice and get good at mirroring, you will help people feel heard, and they will love you for it.”


Kerne identifies validation as one of the best ways to connect with other people. He explains that sometimes validation can be difficult, especially if you don’t necessarily agree with the other person. However, it’s important to remember that validation is not the same as agreeing. In order to validate, you need to show the other person that you actually care about them and what they are saying. You need to show that you understand.

First meetings

Kerne explains that the most important question you can ask when you first meet someone is; ‘how can I help you?’ In asking this, you are giving the other person the opportunity to ask for help. They will feel more appreciative and connected to you. This will also prompt them to help you out in return (although this may not be immediate). In some cases, your offers to help will be declined. This will be because they simply do not know how you can help them. But even when declined, your offer is still beneficial, they will still be appreciative of the offer.

Always be you and be vulnerable

Almost everyone now has an online presence, and Kerne emphasises the importance of being as authentically you when you are online as you are in real life. It’s important that you don’t have a different persona online as this will create the sense that you are inauthentic.

Kerne also emphasises the importance of being vulnerable, even to the point of tears. In doing this you are opening yourself up to someone else and they will feel a deeper connection. They will be able to relate to you and your vulnerability and this can be incredibly powerful in establishing a connection. So don’t be afraid to cry!

Kerne identifies the golden rule, the rule we’ve all grown up learning about: ‘do unto others as you would want done to you’. This is something we’ve all heard before and been told countless times. However, Kerne explains that there is a fundamental weakness with this rule, and that is that everyone is different. In a certain situation, you may want to be treated one way, but someone else requires a very different treatment. Context is so important as is understanding people. So Kerne encourages we live by a slightly altered version of the rule: ‘do unto others as they would want done to them’.


Kerne explains that you really want to be influential, you want to encourage people to come up with YOUR idea ‘all on their own’. There are a few ways you can do this:

  1. Don’t use the phrase ‘I have an idea’ – never use the word I.
  2. Rather you should subtly push the other person in the direction of your idea and the results. Don’t be explicit, let them fill in the gaps.
  3. You could try explaining the opposite of what you are after. Identify the issues of this option and hopefully, the other person will find your idea as the solution.
  4. If the other person mentions your idea, whether close to or exact, embrace it and encourage them.
  5. You can suggest alterations to their idea when it’s not quite what you wanted. Suggest that their idea was a great starting point but have they considered a few ways to make it better?


Kerne explains that you really need to avoid the sales pitch, everyone can sense a sales pitch a mile away and nobody likes being sold to. A better alternative is storytelling. Storytelling has the power of persuasion and can be compelling. Stories allow people to connect with you on an emotional level and are easily drawn in. Kerne explains that storytelling can sell products, services, and ideas in a much more authentic way than any sales pitch ever could.

”To influence others, you have to know when to shut up and listen. No matter what you have to say, offer, sell, or convince someone of, it is always more effective to demonstrate genuine, authentic interest in the other person by listening and asking questions. Of course, eventually you have to talk to share your idea or product and make your case, but if you’ve laid the groundwork by listening, that part is actually surprisingly easy.

Kerne also explains that you don’t ever get what you want unless you ask for it. He believes that people get too scared about hearing the word no that they don’t actually ask for what they want. And in not asking, you’re guaranteeing yourself a no. So don’t be scared, ask!


”To win influence, don’t change the other person’s mind. Just change your own mindset.”

Kerne explains that changing your own mindset is a lot easier than waiting for someone else to change their mind. You can state your case and sit back and wait until the other person comes around, or you can change your own mindset and be happier in the long run.

Humble bragging

Kerne explains that bragging can be extremely beneficial, as long as you remain humble and authentic. He explains that when sharing your achievements on social media you should not be afraid. You should, however, aim to be as authentic and real as possible. People are inevitably going to judge you so ensure that you can stand by what you said.

The other thing you should do on social media is provide authentic praise to others. When deserving of a compliment, give one. This will help people feel good about themselves and it will show that you are invested in them.

Manage your time

Kerne emphasises the importance of managing your time well and managing how you spend your time with other people. Here are a few recommendations from Kerne on managing your time with people better:

  • Examine your calendar for the last 3-4 weeks. Identify the time you spent with different people. Ask yourself if you are happy with how your time was prioritised?
  • Aim to limit the less important tasks and conversations so that you can focus on those that are important. Develop a system that works for you.
  • Regularly check in with the important people in your life, the ones you would like to spend more time with.
  • Continue this for a month then review the system.
  • Re-visit the people you wanted to spend more time with, did you?
  • Assess your system, is it working? Are you prioritising your time to be spent with the right people?


Kerne emphasises the extreme difference between telling someone how to do something and showing them how to do something. He explains that it doesn’t matter who your students are, but showing is always going to be more effective in the long run. Kerne explains that in order to be a good teacher you must practice the art of patience. People who are patient can teach anyone just about anything. You have to take the time to explain and demonstrate every single step. Be patient and simplify things so that anyone can understand what you are teaching.

Understanding strengths

”Understand your strengths and then use them to teach others. Furthermore, the idea helps others identify their strengths and teach and manage to those strengths as well.”

It’s important to remember that no two people are the same and your strengths may differ significantly from someone else. When aiming to teach someone something new, don’t assume they are the same as you. First identify their strengths and understand how they can be utilised to learn and be successful in the task at hand.

Kerne shares a good activity to do in order to improve your teaching ability:

  1. If you are a manager, identify a few people that report directly to you. (If you aren’t a manager identify a few people that you influence in one way or another).
  2. Remember a few of your favourite school teachers. How was their teaching beneficial to you and how did they affect your performance.
  3. Reflect on your notes and try to establish a few ways that you can be a better manager/influencer by taking on some of your favourite teachers qualities.

As a manager or teacher, it’s so important to teach others about the power of goals and accountability partners. Encourage people to find an accountability partner to keep them on track. Their accountability partner should work with them to set SMART goals. Everyone should check in with their partner at a minimum once a week.


”There's no I in team, but there is an I in leadership.”

Kerne identifies the lack in leadership classes. So many people go on to be a leader without any formal training or coaching. He identifies a few things that good leaders need to be focusing on at all times:

  • Identifying and clearly communicating the vision for your team.
  • Ensuring that the right people are in the right roles within the team.
  • Ensuring that there is enough money and resources to reach the desired goals.

As a leader, it’s incredibly important to be transparent. Although a difficult task, you need to be the one to deliver bad news. This goes for your professional and personal life. Kerne encourages you to practice being as honest and transparent with people as possible. When delivering bad news, be clear, straight to the point and remain positive where possible. Establishing this transparency with family and colleagues will help build trust and deepen relationships.

”These days, anyone can be a leader, whether the group you’re leading is your company, your team, your department, or your family. You can be a leader even if you have no official leadership role and are simply setting a good example for the people around you. And you can develop many leaders on your team as well.”


Nobody enjoys conflict, that’s why Kerne believes it is so important that you understand how to effectively resolve conflict when it arrises. This can be applied to conflict occuring between you and someone else, or between two other people.

The key is that you need to put both people at ease, it’s not about finding a winner but finding a resolution that works for both sides. Conflict usually appears when someone is struggling to feel heard or be helped. It’s important to understand both sides and let each side state their case.

Kerne explains that your instinct may be to try to wrap the conflict up as soon as possible. But the reality is that this won’t work. Both sides need to feel like they have been heard before they will calm down and collect themselves. id someone is still heated and emotions are running high, the conflict still needs a bit of time to work itself out.

If you are part of the conflict, the easiest way to resolve it is to let go of your argument. Surrender to them and take the control back. A lot of people see this as quitting or failing, but really you are controlling the situation by determining the outcome.

”Sometimes you can resolve conflicts with people easily. And sometimes it takes work, but through time and effort, through listening and mirroring and validation—along with a dose of patience—you can get to a good place with someone. But sometimes conflicts simply can’t be solved.”


”Remember, it's not all about you. Whether you’re speaking to an audience of three thousand, three hundred, thirty, or three, if your hope is to inspire them, your material and delivery have to be about them and how they can grow, not about you.”

Kerne recognises that too many people get caught up in their own agenda and end up focusing on themselves and their product too much. They forget what the aim of the fame is, to sell something to other people. Therefore, it’s essential that you focus on them, about how your product/service might better their life or solve a problem they have. Aim to help people imagine a life with your product, how does it fit into their life right now and what problems does it solve.

Random acts of kindness

Kerne emphasises the importance of a random act of kindness and how it can make anything feel better. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just something little such as picking up litter, holding the door for people to enter a building or retweeting people promoting something new. All you need to do is stop focusing on yourself for a few minutes and focus on someone else.

Constrictive criticism

No-one enjoys receiving criticism but Kerne explains that constructive criticism is a core component of improvement. Feedback is so important and is entirely necessary. When providing feedback, ensure that your criticism is always constructive and consider the following points:

  • Don’t deliver a critique in front of other people. Don’t try to shame someone.
  • Have a one-on-one discussion.
  • Consider the praise sandwich – start with a compliment, followed by a criticism and round it up with another compliment.
  • Rather than just identifying issues, suggest positive solutions.
  • Don’t dwell on the negative.


Kerne’s last tip is that you need to keep people happy. He recommends you consider creative ways that you can surprise the important people in your life and promote happiness and joy. Consider your employees, colleagues, clients, friends, and family. Try and surprise someone every day with a little bout of happiness. Whether it be a small compliment or sharing a joke, the little things go a long way.

Consider writing thank you cards. Although a bit old-fashioned, a thank you card can be incredibly influential. It shows that you care and you took the time to sit down, write a personal note and send the card. It’s a really simple task that can build loyalty, trust and deepen relationships. You can also send small, thoughtful gifts. They don’t have to be big or lavish, a small pot plant for an office or a bottle of wine can go a long way.

Another thing that Kerne recommends you try to do regularly is introduce people you know to each other. This lifts up both people you are introducing, they’ll feel worthy and important. And it should provide mutual benefits.


Key takeaways

  • Self-awareness is key. Aim to understand yourself first, then you’ll be able to understand others.
  • Humans love to talk about themselves.
  • Stop passively listening (simply waiting for your turn to talk) and start actively listening (care about what the other person is saying).
  • When networking, aim to stand out in a crowd.
  • Use social networks such as LinkedIn to meet people.
  • Encourage people to come up with YOUR idea ‘all on their own’.
  • Don’t deliver sales pitches, focus on storytelling.
  • Learn to pick up non-verbal cues. Understand what they mean.
  • It’s often easier to change your own mindset than it is to change someone else’s mind.
  • Aim to teach, show people how to do things rather than telling them
  • In order to teach, you need to be patient.
  • As a leader, it’s important to be transparent.
  • Learning how to resolve conflict is really important. For both conflict that involves yourself and conflict between two other individuals.
  • Ensure that any criticism that you hand out is constructive.
  • Aim to keep people happy, do little things to brighten peoples days.

Further reading

If you enjoyed reading about how to deal with other people the definitely check out How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The principles in the book are simple, but something a lot of us fail to use or remember. This book will help you to convince people to your way of thinking, avoid arguments and become more like. If you're in a leadership or sales type role, I strongly recommend this book.

If you’re a leader it’s also worth checking out Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. This book is ideal for anyone who leads, whether it be a small team, an entire organisation, a community or a family. As a leader, it’s important to create a culture that leaves everyone happy and fulfilled, and this is exactly what Simon describes. Simon emphasises that when an environment is built on trust, teams will work together, have each other's backs, survive and thrive.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi is a guide to establishing and managing some of the most important relationships in your business life. These relationships can be used to open up new doors and opportunities, achieve great success and reach your goals. Ferrazzi emphasises the importance of networking, meeting new people and reaching out to people beyond your usual social circle.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action steps

  • Start the process by aiming to understand yourself better. Figure out what makes you tick, what motivates you, what makes you happy and how you relate best to other people.
  • We’ve covered 11 tips in the summary, try to introduce these into your life one by one.
  • Download the complete book on Amazon.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.