We’ve often cited Dale Carnegie on “winning friends.” Carnegie believed that listening well makes you appear to be a better conversationalist than does speaking well — and that it’s certainly better than speaking too much. He told a good story about sitting next to an important businessman at dinner and saying nothing but “I see” and “aha” throughout the entire evening.
The next day, he was shocked to hear that the businessman had praised him as a very bright young fellow and a charming speaker. “People blunder through life trying to wig-wag other people into becoming interested in them,” Carnegie said. “Of course, it doesn’t work. People are not interested in you. They are interested in themselves — morning, noon, and after dinner.” A New York telephone company made a detailed study of telephone conversations to find out which word was the most used.
You guessed it: It was the personal pronoun “I.” It was used 3,900 times in 500 phone conversations. And here’s my own story on the subject . . . After Hugh Kenner, a very prominent Ezra Pound scholar, finished his lecture at Catholic University, where I was working on my Ph.D. in English literature (still on my to-do list), I walked up to the podium and asked him to autograph his latest book, a 10-pound tome on the controversial poet. I praised Mr. Kenner profusely and genuinely, as I was a big fan of his.
The next day, the chairman of the English department pulled me aside and asked, “What did you say to Mr. Kenner yesterday? He was SO impressed with you! He predicted a great career for you in academia.” Long before Dale Carnegie was born, Ben Franklin had this to say: “The wit of conversation consists more in finding it in others than showing a great deal yourself. He who goes out of your company pleased with his own facetiousness and ingenuity will sooner come into it again.”[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]