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People are so proud of their names that they strive to perpetuate them at any cost. Even blustering, hardboiled old P. T. Barnum, the greatest showman of his time, disappointed because he had no sons to carry on his name, offered his grandson, C. H. Seeley, $25,000 if he would call himself “Barnum” Seeley.

For many centuries, nobles and magnates supported artists, musicians and authors so that their creative works would be dedicated to them.

Libraries and museums owe their richest collections to people who cannot bear to think that their names might perish from the memory of the race. The New York Public Library has its Astor and Lenox collections. The Metropolitan Museum perpetuates the names of Benjamin Altman and J. P. Morgan. And nearly every church is beautified by stained-glass windows commemorating the names of their donors. Many of the buildings on the campus of most universities bear the names of donors who contributed large sums of money for this honor.

Most people don’t remember names, for the simple reason that they don’t take the time and energy necessary to concentrate and repeat and fix names indelibly in their minds. They make excuses for themselves; they are too busy.

But they were probably no busier than Franklin D. Roosevelt, and he took time to remember and recall even the names of mechanics with whom he came into contact.

To illustrate: The Chrysler organization built a special car for Mr. Roosevelt, who could not use a standard car because his legs were paralyzed. W. F. Chamberlain and a mechanic delivered it to the White House. I have in front of me a letter from Mr. Chamberlain relating his experiences. “I taught President Roosevelt how to handle a car with a lot of unusual gadgets, but he taught me a lot about the fine art of handling people.

“When I called at the White House,” Mr. Chamberlain writes, “the President was extremely pleasant and cheerful. He called me by name, made me feel very comfortable, and particularly impressed me with the fact that he was vitally interested in things I had to show him and tell him. The car was so designed that it could be operated entirely by hand. A crowd gathered around to look at the car; and he remarked: ‘I think it is marvelous. All you have to do is to touch a button and it moves away and you can drive it without effort. I think it is grand—I don’t know what makes it go. I’d love to have the time to tear it down and see how it works.’ “When Roosevelt’s friends and associates admired the machine, he said in their presence: ‘Mr. Chamberlain, I certainly appreciate all the time and effort you have spent in developing this car. It is a mighty fine job.’ He admired the radiator, the special rear-vision mirror and clock, the special spotlight, the kind of upholstery, the sitting position of the driver’s seat, the special suitcases in the trunk with his monogram on each suitcase. In other words, he took notice of every detail to which he knew I had given considerable thought. He made a point of bringing these various pieces of equipment to the attention of Mrs. Roosevelt, Miss Perkins, the Secretary of Labor, and his secretary. He even brought the old White House porter into the picture by saying, ‘George, you want to take particularly good care of the suitcases.’ “When the driving lesson was finished, the President turned to me and said: ‘Well, Mr. Chamberlain, I have been keeping the Federal Reserve Board waiting thirty minutes. I guess I had better get back to work.’

“I took a mechanic with me to the White House. He was introduced to Roosevelt when he arrived. He didn’t talk to the President, and Roosevelt heard his name only once. He was a shy chap, and he kept in the background. But before leaving us, the President looked for the mechanic, shook his hand, called him by name, and thanked him for coming to Washington. And there was nothing perfunctory about his thanks. He meant what he said. I could feel that.

“A few days after returning to New York, I got an autographed photograph of President Roosevelt and a little note of thanks again expressing his appreciation for my assistance. How he found time to do it is a mystery to me.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt knew that one of the simplest, most obvious and most important ways of gaining good will was by remembering names and making people feel important—yet how many of us do it?

Half the time we are introduced to a stranger, we chat a few minutes and can’t even remember his or her name by the time we say goodbye.

One of the first lessons a politician learns is this: “To recall a voter’s name is statesmanship. To forget it is oblivion.”

And the ability to remember names is almost as important in business and social contacts as it is in politics.

Napoleon the Third, Emperor of France and nephew of the great Napoleon, boasted that in spite of all his royal duties he could remember the name of every person he met.

His technique? Simple. If he didn’t hear the name distinctly, he said, “So sorry. I didn’t get the name clearly.” Then, if it was an unusual name, he would say, “How is it spelled?”

During the conversation, he took the trouble to repeat the name several times, and tried to associate it in his mind with the person’s features, expression and general appearance.

If the person was someone of importance, Napoleon went to even further pains. As soon as His Royal Highness was alone, he wrote the name down on a piece of paper, looked at it, concentrated on it, fixed it securely in his mind, and then tore up the paper. In this way, he gained an eye impression of the name as well as an ear impression.

All this takes time, but “Good manners,” said Emerson, “are made up of petty sacrifices.”

The importance of remembering and using names is not just the prerogative of kings and corporate executives. It works for all of us. Ken Nottingham, an employee of General Motors in Indiana, usually had lunch at the company cafeteria. He noticed that the woman who worked behind the counter always had a scowl on her face. “She had been making sandwiches for about two hours and I was just another sandwich to her. I told her what I wanted. She weighed out the ham on a little scale, then she gave me one leaf of lettuce, a few potato chips and handed them to me.

“The next day I went through the same line. Same woman, same scowl. The only difference was I noticed her name tag. I smiled and said, ‘Hello, Eunice,’ and then told her what I wanted. Well, she forgot the scale, piled on the ham, gave me three leaves of lettuce and heaped on the potato chips until they fell off the plate.” We should be aware of the magic contained in a name and realize that this single item is wholly and completely owned by the person with whom we are dealing … and nobody else. The name sets the individual apart; it makes him or her unique among all others. The information we are imparting or the request we are making takes on a special importance when we approach the situation with the name of the individual. From the waitress to the senior executive, the name will work magic as we deal with others.


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

4 An Easy Way to Become a Good Conversationalist

Some time ago, I attended a bridge party. I don’t play bridge—and there was a woman there who didn’t play bridge either. She had discovered that I had once been Lowell Thomas’ manager before he went on the radio and that I had traveled in Europe a great deal while helping him prepare the illustrated travel talks he was then delivering. So she said: “Oh, Mr. Carnegie, I do want you to tell me about all the wonderful places you have visited and the sights you have seen.” As we sat down on the sofa, she remarked that she and her husband had recently returned from a trip to Africa. “Africa!” I exclaimed. “How interesting! I’ve always wanted to see Africa, but I never got there except for a twenty-four-hour stay once in Algiers. Tell me, did you visit the big-game country? Yes? How fortunate. I envy you. Do tell me about Africa.” That kept her talking for forty-five minutes. She never again asked me where I had been or what I had seen. She didn’t want to hear me talk about my travels. All she wanted was an interested listener, so she could expand her ego and tell about where she had been.

Was she unusual? No. Many people are like that.

For example, I met a distinguished botanist at a dinner party given by a New York book publisher. I had never talked with a botanist before, and I found him fascinating. I literally sat on the edge of my chair and listened while he spoke of exotic plants and experiments in developing new forms of plant life and indoor gardens (and even told me astonishing facts about the humble potato). I had a small indoor garden of my own—and he was good enough to tell me how to solve some of my problems.

As I said, we were at a dinner party. There must have been a dozen other guests, but I violated all the canons of courtesy, ignored everyone else, and talked for hours to the botanist.

Midnight came. I said good night to everyone and departed. The botanist then turned to our host and paid me several flattering compliments. I was “most stimulating.” I was this and I was that, and he ended by saying I was a “most interesting conversationalist.” An interesting conversationalist? Why, I had said hardly anything at all. I couldn’t have said anything if I had wanted to without changing the subject, for I didn’t know any more about botany than I knew about the anatomy of a penguin. But I had done this: I had listened intently. I had listened because I was genuinely interested. And he felt it. Naturally that pleased him. That kind of listening is one of the highest compliments we can pay anyone. “Few human beings,” wrote Jack Woodford in Strangers in Love, “few human beings are proof against the implied flattery of rapt attention.” I went even further than giving him rapt attention. I was “hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.” I told him that I had been immensely entertained and instructed—and I had. I told him I wished I had his knowledge—and I did. I told him that I should love to wander the fields with him—and I have. I told him I must see him again—and I did.

And so I had him thinking of me as a good conversationalist when, in reality, I had been merely a good listener and had encouraged him to talk.

What is the secret, the mystery, of a successful business interview? Well, according to former Harvard president Charles W. Eliot, “There is no mystery about successful business intercourse. … Exclusive attention to the person who is speaking to you is very important. Nothing else is so flattering as that.” Eliot himself was a past master of the art of listening. Henry James, one of America’s first great novelists, recalled: “Dr. Eliot’s listening was not mere silence, but a form of activity. Sitting very erect on the end of his spine with hands joined in his lap, making no movement except that he revolved his thumbs around each other faster or slower, he faced his interlocutor and seemed to be hearing with his eyes as well as his ears. He listened with his mind and attentively considered what you had to say while you said it. … At the end of an interview the person who had talked to him felt that he had had his say.” Self-evident, isn’t it? You don’t have to study for four years in Harvard to discover that. Yet I know and you know department store owners who will rent expensive space, buy their goods economically, dress their windows appealingly, spend thousands of dollars in advertising and then hire clerks who haven’t the sense to be good listeners—clerks who interrupt customers, contradict them, irritate them, and all but drive them from the store.

A department store in Chicago almost lost a regular customer who spent several thousand dollars each year in that store because a sales clerk wouldn’t listen. Mrs. Henrietta Douglas, who took our course in Chicago, had purchased a coat at a special sale. After she had brought it home she noticed that there was a tear in the lining. She came back the next day and asked the sales clerk to exchange it. The clerk refused even to listen to her complaint. “You bought this at a special sale,” she said. She pointed to a sign on the wall. “Read that,” she exclaimed. “‘All sales are final.’ Once you bought it, you have to keep it. Sew up the lining yourself.” “But this was damaged merchandise,” Mrs. Douglas complained.

“Makes no difference,” the clerk interrupted. “Final’s final.”

Mrs. Douglas was about to walk out indignantly, swearing never to return to that store ever, when she was greeted by the department manager, who knew her from her many years of patronage. Mrs. Douglas told her what had happened.

The manager listened attentively to the whole story, examined the coat and then said: “Special sales are ‘final’ so we can dispose of merchandise at the end of the season. But this ‘no return’ policy does not apply to damaged goods. We will certainly repair or replace the lining, or if you prefer, give you your money back.” What a difference in treatment! If that manager had not come along and listened to the customer, a long-term patron of that store could have been lost forever.

Listening is just as important in one’s home life as in the world of business. Millie Esposito of Croton-on-Hudson, New York, made it her business to listen carefully when one of her children wanted to speak with her. One evening she was sitting in the kitchen with her son, Robert, and after a brief discussion of something that was on his mind, Robert said: “Mom, I know that you love me very much.” Mrs. Esposito was touched and said: “Of course I love you very much. Did you doubt it?”

Robert responded: “No, but I really know you love me because whenever I want to talk to you about something you stop whatever you are doing and listen to me.”

The chronic kicker, even the most violent critic, will frequently soften and be subdued in the presence of a patient, sympathetic listener—a listener who will be silent while the irate fault-finder dilates like a king cobra and spews the poison out of his system. To illustrate: The New York Telephone Company discovered a few years ago that it had to deal with one of the most vicious customers who ever cursed a customer service representative. And he did curse. He raved. He threatened to tear the phone out by its roots. He refused to pay certain charges that he declared were false. He wrote letters to the newspapers. He filed innumerable complaints with the Public Service Commission, and he started several suits against the telephone company.

At last, one of the company’s most skillful “troubleshooters” was sent to interview this stormy petrel. This “troubleshooter” listened and let the cantankerous customer enjoy himself pouring out his tirade. The telephone representative listened and said “yes” and sympathized with his grievance.

“He raved on and I listened for nearly three hours,” the “troubleshooter” said as he related his experiences before one of the author’s classes. “Then I went back and listened some more. I interviewed him four times, and before the fourth visit was over I had become a charter member of an organization he was starting. He called it the ‘Telephone Subscribers’ Protective Association.’ I am still a member of this organization, and, so far as I now, I’m the only member in the world today besides Mr. ——.

“I listened and sympathized with him on every point that he made during these interviews. He had never had a telephone representative talk with him that way before, and he became almost friendly. The point on which I went to see him was not even mentioned on the first visit, nor was it mentioned on the second or third, but upon the fourth interview, I closed the case completely, he paid all his bills in full, and for the first time in the history of his difficulties with the telephone company he voluntarily withdrew his complaints from the Public Service Commission.” Doubtless Mr. —— had considered himself a holy crusader, defending the public rights against callous exploitation. But in reality, what he had really wanted was a feeling of importance. He got this feeling of importance at first by kicking and complaining. But as soon as he got his feeling of importance from a representative of the company, his imagined grievances vanished into thin air.

One morning years ago, an angry customer stormed into the office of Julian F. Detmer, founder of the Detmer Woolen Company, which later became the world’s largest distributor of woolens to the tailoring trade.

“This man owed us a small sum of money,” Mr. Detmer explained to me. “The customer denied it, but we knew he was wrong. So our credit department had insisted that he pay. After getting a number of letters from our credit department, he packed his grip, made a trip to Chicago, and hurried into my office to inform me not only that he was not going to pay that bill, but that he was never going to buy another dollar’s worth of goods from the Detmer Woolen Company.

“I listened patiently to all he had to say. I was tempted to interrupt, but I realized that would be bad policy. So I let him talk himself out. When he finally simmered down and got in a receptive mood, I said quietly: ‘I want to thank you for coming to Chicago to tell me about this. You have done me a great favor, for if our credit department has annoyed you, it may annoy other good customers, and that would be just too bad. Believe me, I am far more eager to hear this than you are to tell it.’ “That was the last thing in the world he expected me to say. I think he was a trifle disappointed, because he had come to Chicago to tell me a thing or two, but here I was thanking him instead of scrapping with him. I assured him we would wipe the charge off the books and forget it, because he was a very careful man with only one account to look after, while our clerks had to look after thousands. Therefore, he was less likely to be wrong than we were.

“I told him that I understood exactly how he felt and that, if I were in his shoes, I should undoubtedly feel precisely as he did. Since he wasn’t going to buy from us anymore, I recommended some other woolen houses.

“In the past, we had usually lunched together when he came to Chicago, so I invited him to have lunch with me this day. He accepted reluctantly, but when we came back to the office he placed a larger order than ever before. He returned home in a softened mood and, wanting to be just as fair with us as we had been with him, looked over his bills, found one that had been mislaid, and sent us a check with his apologies.

“Later, when his wife presented him with a baby boy, he gave his son the middle name of Detmer, and he remained a friend and customer of the house until his death twenty-two years afterwards.”

Years ago, a poor Dutch immigrant boy washed the windows of a bakery shop after school to help support his family. His people were so poor that in addition he used to go out in the street with a basket every day and collect stray bits of coal that had fallen in the gutter where the coal wagons had delivered fuel. That boy, Edward Bok, never got more than six years of schooling in his life; yet eventually he made himself one of the most successful magazine editors in the history of American journalism. How did he do it? That is a long story, but how he got his start can be told briefly. He got his start by using the principles advocated in this chapter.

He left school when he was thirteen and became an office boy for Western Union, but he didn’t for one moment give up the idea of an education. Instead, he started to educate himself. He saved his carfares and went without lunch until he had enough money to buy an encyclopedia of American biography—and then he did an unheard-of thing. He read the lives of famous people and wrote them asking for additional information about their childhoods. He was a good listener. He asked famous people to tell him more about themselves. He wrote General James A. Garfield, who was then running for President, and asked if it was true that he was once a tow boy on a canal; and Garfield replied. He wrote General Grant asking about a certain battle, and Grant drew a map for him and invited this fourteen-year-old boy to dinner and spent the evening talking to him.

Soon our Western Union messenger boy was corresponding with many of the most famous people in the nation: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Longfellow, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, Louisa May Alcott, General Sherman and Jefferson Davis. Not only did he correspond with these distinguished people, but as soon as he got a vacation, he visited many of them as a welcome guest in their homes. This experience imbued him with a confidence that was invaluable. These men and women fired him with a vision and ambition that shaped his life. And all this, let me repeat, was made possible solely by the application of the principles we are discussing here.

Isaac F. Marcosson, a journalist who interviewed hundreds of celebrities, declared that many people fail to make a favorable impression because they don’t listen attentively. “They have been so much concerned with what they are going to say next that they do not keep their ears open. … Very important people have told me that they prefer good listeners to good talkers, but the ability to listen seems rarer than almost any other good trait.” And not only important personages crave a good listener, but ordinary folk do too. As the Reader’s Digest once said: “Many persons call a doctor when all they want is an audience.”

During the darkest hours of the Civil War, Lincoln wrote to an old friend in Springfield, Illinois, asking him to come to Washington. Lincoln said he had some problems he wanted to discuss with him. The old neighbor called at the White House, and Lincoln talked to him for hours about the advisability of issuing a proclamation freeing the slaves. Lincoln went over all the arguments for and against such a move, and then read letters and newspaper articles, some denouncing him for not freeing the slaves and others denouncing him for fear he was going to free them. After talking for hours, Lincoln shook hands with his old neighbor, said good night, and sent him back to Illinois without even asking for his opinion. Lincoln had done all the talking himself. That seemed to clarify his mind. “He seemed to feel easier after that talk,” the old friend said. Lincoln hadn’t wanted advice. He had wanted merely a friendly, sympathetic listener to whom he could unburden himself. That’s what we all want when we are in trouble. That is frequently all the irritated customer wants, and the dissatisfied employee or the hurt friend.

One of the great listeners of modern times was Sigmund Freud. A man who met Freud described his manner of listening: “It struck me so forcibly that I shall never forget him. He had qualities which I had never seen in any other man. Never had I seen such concentrated attention. There was none of that piercing ‘soul penetrating gaze’ business. His eyes were mild and genial. His voice was low and kind. His gestures were few. But the attention he gave me, his appreciation of what I said, even when I said it badly, was extraordinary. You’ve no idea what it meant to be listened to like that.” If you want to know how to make people shun you and laugh at you behind your back and even despise you, here is the recipe: Never listen to anyone for long. Talk incessantly about yourself. If you have an idea while the other person is talking, don’t wait for him or her to finish: bust right in and interrupt in the middle of a sentence.

Do you know people like that? I do, unfortunately; and the astonishing part of it is that some of them are prominent.

Bores, that is all they are—bores intoxicated with their own egos, drunk with a sense of their own importance.

People who talk only of themselves think only of themselves. And “those people who think only of themselves,” Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, longtime president of Columbia University, said, “are hopelessly uneducated. They are not educated,” said Dr. Butler, “no matter how instructed they may be.” So if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.

Remember that the people you are talking to are a hundred times more interested in themselves and their wants and problems than they are in you and your problems. A person’s toothache means more to that person than a famine in China which kills a million people. A boil on one’s neck interests one more than forty earthquakes in Africa. Think of that the next time you start a conversation.


Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

5 How to Interest People

Everyone who was ever a guest of Theodore Roosevelt was astonished at the range and diversity of his knowledge. Whether his visitor was a cowboy or a Rough Rider, a New York politician or a diplomat, Roosevelt knew what to say. And how was it done? The answer was simple. Whenever Roosevelt expected a visitor, he sat up late the night before, reading up on the subject in which he knew his guest was particularly interested.

For Roosevelt knew, as all leaders know, that the royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most.

The genial William Lyon Phelps, essayist and professor of literature at Yale, learned this lesson early in life.

“When I was eight years old and was spending a weekend visiting my Aunt Libby Linsley at her home in Stratford on the Housatonic,” he wrote in his essay on Human Nature, “a middle-aged man called one evening, and after a polite skirmish with my aunt, he devoted his attention to me. At that time, I happened to be excited about boats, and the visitor discussed the subject in a way that seemed to me particularly interesting. After he left, I spoke of him with enthusiasm. What a man! My aunt informed me he was a New York lawyer, that he cared nothing whatever about boats—that he took not the slightest interest in the subject. ‘But why then did he talk all the time about boats?’ “‘Because he is a gentleman. He saw you were interested in boats, and he talked about the things he knew would interest and please you. He made himself agreeable.’”

And William Lyon Phelps added: “I never forgot my aunt’s remark.”

As I write this chapter, I have before me a letter from Edward L. Chalif, who was active in Boy Scout work.

“One day I found I needed a favor,” wrote Mr. Chalif. “A big Scout jamboree was coming off in Europe, and I wanted the president of one of the largest corporations in America to pay the expenses of one of my boys for the trip.

“Fortunately, just before I went to see this man, I heard that he had drawn a check for a million dollars, and that after it was canceled, he had had it framed.

“So the first thing I did when I entered his office was to ask to see the check. A check for a million dollars! I told him I never knew that anybody had ever written such a check, and that I wanted to tell my boys that I had actually seen a check for a million dollars. He gladly showed it to me; I admired it and asked him to tell me all about how it happened to be drawn.” You notice, don’t you, that Mr. Chalif didn’t begin by talking about the Boy Scouts, or the jamboree in Europe, or what it was he wanted? He talked in terms of what interested the other man. Here’s the result:

“Presently, the man I was interviewing said: ‘Oh, by the way, what was it you wanted to see me about?’ So I told him.

“To my vast surprise,” Mr. Chalif continues, “he not only granted immediately what I asked for, but much more. I had asked him to send only one boy to Europe, but he sent five boys and myself, gave me a letter of credit for a thousand dollars and told us to stay in Europe for seven weeks. He also gave me letters of introduction to his branch presidents, putting them at our service, and he himself met us in Paris and showed us the town. Since then, he has given jobs to some of the boys whose parents were in want, and he is still active in our group.

“Yet I know if I hadn’t found out what he was interested in, and got him warmed up first, I wouldn’t have found him one-tenth as easy to approach.”

Is this a valuable technique to use in business? Is it? Let’s see. Take Henry G. Duvernoy of Duvernoy and Sons, a wholesale baking firm in New York.

Mr. Duvernoy had been trying to sell bread to a certain New York hotel. He had called on the manager every week for four years. He went to the same social affairs the manager attended. He even took rooms in the hotel and lived there in order to get the business. But he failed.

“Then,” said Mr. Duvernoy, “after studying human relations, I resolved to change my tactics. I decided to find out what interested this man—what caught his enthusiasm.

“I discovered he belonged to a society of hotel executives called the Hotel Greeters of America. He not only belonged, but his bubbling enthusiasm had made him president of the organization, and president of the International Greeters. No matter where its conventions were held, he would be there.

“So when I saw him the next day, I began talking about the Greeters. What a response I got. What a response! He talked to me for half an hour about the Greeters, his tones vibrant with enthusiasm. I could plainly see that this society was not only his hobby, it was the passion of his life. Before I left his office, he had ‘sold’ me a membership in his organization.

“In the meantime, I had said nothing about bread. But a few days later, the steward of his hotel phoned me to come over with samples and prices.

“‘I don’t know what you did to the old boy,’ the steward greeted me, ‘but he sure is sold on you!’

“Think of it! I had been drumming at that man for four years—trying to get his business—and I’d still be drumming at him if I hadn’t finally taken the trouble to find out what he was interested in, and what he enjoyed talking about.” Edward E. Harriman of Hagerstown, Maryland, chose to live in the beautiful Cumberland Valley of Maryland after he completed his military service. Unfortunately, at that time there were few jobs available in the area. A little research uncovered the fact that a number of companies in the area were either owned or controlled by an unusual business maverick, R. J. Funkhouser, whose rise from poverty to riches intrigued Mr. Harriman. However, he was known for being inaccessible to job seekers. Mr. Harriman wrote: “I interviewed a number of people and found that his major interest was anchored in his drive for power and money. Since he protected himself from people like me by use of a dedicated and stern secretary, I studied her interests and goals and only then I paid an unannounced visit at her office. She had been Mr. Funkhouser’s orbiting satellite for about fifteen years. When I told her I had a proposition for him which might translate itself into financial and political success for him, she became enthused. I also conversed with her about her constructive participation in his success. After this conversation she arranged for me to meet Mr. Funkhouser.

“I entered his huge and impressive office determined not to ask directly for a job. He was seated behind a large carved desk and thundered at me, ‘How about it, young man?’ I said, ‘Mr. Funkhouser, I believe I can make money for you.’ He immediately rose and invited me to sit in one of the large upholstered chairs. I enumerated my ideas and the qualifications I had to realize these ideas, as well as how they would contribute to his personal success and that of his businesses.

“‘R. J.,’ as he became known to me, hired me at once and for over twenty years I have grown in his enterprises and we both have prospered.”

Talking in terms of the other person’s interests pays off for both parties. Howard Z. Herzig, a leader in the field of employee communications, has always followed this principle. When asked what reward he got from it, Mr. Herzig responded that he not only received a different reward from each person but that in general the reward had been an enlargement of his life each time he spoke to someone.


Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

6 How to Make People Like You Instantly

I was waiting in line to register a letter in the post office at Thirty-third Street and Eighth Avenue in New York. I noticed that the clerk appeared to be bored with the job—weighing envelopes, handing out stamps, making change, issuing receipts—the same monotonous grind year after year. So I said to myself: “I am going to try to make that clerk like me. Obviously, to make him like me, I must say something nice, not about myself, but about him.” So I asked myself, “What is there about him that I can honestly admire?” That is sometimes a hard question to answer, especially with strangers; but, in this case, it happened to be easy. I instantly saw something I admired no end.

So while he was weighing my envelope, I remarked with enthusiasm: “I certainly wish I had your head of hair.”

He looked up, half-startled, his face beaming with smiles. “Well, it isn’t as good as it used to be,” he said modestly. I assured him that although it might have lost some of its pristine glory, nevertheless it was still magnificent. He was immensely pleased. We carried on a pleasant little conversation and the last thing he said to me was: “Many people have admired my hair.” I’ll bet that person went out to lunch that day walking on air. I’ll bet he went home that night and told his wife about it. I’ll bet he looked in the mirror and said: “It is a beautiful head of hair.”

I told this story once in public and a man asked me afterwards: “What did you want to get out of him?”

What was I trying to get out of him!!! What was I trying to get out of him!!!

If we are so contemptibly selfish that we can’t radiate a little happiness and pass on a bit of honest appreciation without trying to get something out of the other person in return—if our souls are no bigger than sour crab apples, we shall meet with the failure we so richly deserve.

Oh yes, I did want something out of that chap. I wanted something priceless. And I got it. I got the feeling that I had done something for him without his being able to do anything whatever in return for me. That is a feeling that flows and sings in your memory long after the incident is past.

There is one all-important law of human conduct. If we obey that law, we shall almost never get into trouble. In fact, that law, if obeyed, will bring us countless friends and constant happiness. But the very instant we break the law, we shall get into endless trouble. The law is this: Always make the other person feel important. John Dewey, as we have already noted, said that the desire to be important is the deepest urge in human nature; and William James said: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” As I have already pointed out, it is this urge that differentiates us from the animals. It is this urge that has been responsible for civilization itself.

Philosophers have been speculating on the rules of human relationships for thousands of years, and out of all that speculation, there has evolved only one important precept. It is not new. It is as old as history. Zoroaster taught it to his followers in Persia twenty-five hundred years ago. Confucius preached it in China twenty-four centuries ago. Lao-tse, the founder of Taoism, taught it to his disciples in the Valley of the Han. Buddha preached it on the bank of the Holy Ganges five hundred years before Christ. The sacred books of Hinduism taught it a thousand years before that. Jesus taught it among the stony hills of Judea nineteen centuries ago. Jesus summed it up in one thought—probably the most important rule in the world: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” You want the approval of those with whom you come in contact. You want recognition of your true worth. You want a feeling that you are important in your little world. You don’t want to listen to cheap, insincere flattery, but you do crave sincere appreciation. You want your friends and associates to be, as Charles Schwab put it, “hearty in their approbation and lavish in their praise.” All of us want that.

So let’s obey the Golden Rule, and give unto others what we would have others give unto us.

How? When? Where? The answer is: All the time, everywhere.

David G. Smith of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, told one of our classes how he handled a delicate situation when he was asked to take charge of the refreshment booth at a charity concert.

“The night of the concert I arrived at the park and found two elderly ladies in a very bad humor standing next to the refreshment stand. Apparently each thought that she was in charge of this project. As I stood there pondering what to do, one of the members of the sponsoring committee appeared and handed me a cash box and thanked me for taking over the project. She introduced Rose and Jane as my helpers and then ran off.

“A great silence ensued. Realizing that the cash box was a symbol of authority (of sorts), I gave the box to Rose and explained that I might not be able to keep the money straight and that if she took care of it I would feel better. I then suggested to Jane that she show two teenagers who had been assigned to refreshments how to operate the soda machine, and I asked her to be responsible for that part of the project.

“The evening was very enjoyable with Rose happily counting the money, Jane supervising the teenagers, and me enjoying the concert.”

You don’t have to wait until you are ambassador to France or chairman of the Clambake Committee of your lodge before you use this philosophy of appreciation. You can work magic with it almost every day.

If, for example, the waitress brings us mashed potatoes when we have ordered French fried, let’s say: “I’m sorry to trouble you, but I prefer French fried.” She’ll probably reply, “No trouble at all” and will be glad to change the potatoes, because we have shown respect for her.

Little phrases such as “I’m sorry to trouble you,” “Would you be so kind as to ———?” “Won’t you please?” “Would you mind?” “Thank you”—little courtesies like these oil the cogs of the monotonous grind of everyday life—and, incidentally, they are the hallmark of good breeding.

Let’s take another illustration, Hall Caine’s novels—The Christian, The Deemster, The Manxman, among them—were all bestsellers in the early part of this century. Millions of people read his novels, countless millions. He was the son of a blacksmith. He never had more than eight years’ schooling in his life; yet when he died he was the richest literary man of his time.

The story goes like this: Hall Caine loved sonnets and ballads; so he devoured all of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poetry. He even wrote a lecture chanting the praises of Rossetti’s artistic achievement—and sent a copy to Rossetti himself. Rossetti was delighted. “Any young man who has such an exalted opinion of my ability,” Rossetti probably said to himself, “must be brilliant.” So Rossetti invited this blacksmith’s son to come to London and act as his secretary. That was the turning point in Hall Caine’s life; for, in his new position, he met the literary artists of the day. Profiting by their advice and inspired by their encouragement, he launched upon a career that emblazoned his name across the sky.

His home, Greeba Castle, on the Isle of Man, became a Mecca for tourists from the far corners of the world, and he left a multimillion-dollar estate. Yet—who knows—he might have died poor and unknown had he not written an essay expressing his admiration for a famous man.

Such is the power, the stupendous power, of sincere, heartfelt appreciation.

Rossetti considered himself important. That is not strange. Almost everyone considers himself important, very important.

The life of many a person could probably be changed if only someone would make him feel important. Ronald J. Rowland, who is one of the instructors of our course in California, is also a teacher of arts and crafts. He wrote to us about a student named Chris in his beginning-crafts class: Chris was a very quiet, shy boy lacking in self-confidence, the kind of student that often does not receive the attention he deserves. I also teach an advanced class that had grown to be somewhat of a status symbol and a privilege for a student to have earned the right to be in it.

On Wednesday, Chris was diligently working at his desk. I really felt there was a hidden fire deep inside him. I asked Chris if he would like to be in the advanced class. How I wish I could express the look in Chris’s face, the emotions in that shy fourteen-year-old boy trying to hold back his tears.

“Who me, Mr. Rowland? Am I good enough?”

“Yes, Chris, you are good enough.”

I had to leave at that point because tears were coming to my eyes. As Chris walked out of class that day, seemingly two inches taller, he looked at me with bright blue eyes and said in a positive voice, “Thank you, Mr. Rowland.”

Chris taught me a lesson I will never forget—our deep desire to feel important. To help me never forget this rule, I made a sign which reads “YOU ARE IMPORTANT.” This sign hangs in the front of the classroom for all to see and to remind me that each student I face is equally important.

The unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel themselves superior to you in some way, and a sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely.

Remember what Emerson said: “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.”

And the pathetic part of it is that frequently those who have the least justification for a feeling of achievement bolster up their egos by a show of tumult and conceit which is truly nauseating. As Shakespeare put it: “ … man, proud man, / Drest in a little brief authority, / … Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven / As make the angels weep.” I am going to tell you how business people in my own courses have applied these principles with remarkable results. Let’s take the case of a Connecticut attorney (because of his relatives he prefers not to have his name mentioned).

Shortly after joining the course, Mr. R—— drove to Long Island with his wife to visit some of her relatives. She left him to chat with an old aunt of hers and then rushed off by herself to visit some of the younger relatives. Since he soon had to give a speech professionally on how he applied the principles of appreciation, he thought he would gain some worthwhile experience talking with the elderly lady. So he looked around the house to see what he could honestly admire.

“This house was built about 1890, wasn’t it?” he inquired.

“Yes,” she replied, “that is precisely the year it was built.”

“It reminds me of the house I was born in,” he said. “It’s beautiful. Well built. Roomy. You know, they don’t build houses like this anymore.”

“You’re right,” the old lady agreed. “The young folks nowadays don’t care for beautiful homes. All they want is a small apartment, and then they go off gadding about in their automobiles.

“This is a dream house,” she said in a voice vibrating with tender memories. “This house was built with love. My husband and I dreamed about it for years before we built it. We didn’t have an architect. We planned it all ourselves.” She showed Mr. R—— about the house, and he expressed his hearty admiration for the beautiful treasures she had picked up in her travels and cherished over a lifetime—paisley shawls, an old English tea set, Wedgwood china, French beds and chairs, Italian paintings, and silk draperies that had once hung in a French chateau.

After showing Mr. R—— through the house, she took him out to the garage. There, jacked up on blocks, was a Packard car—in mint condition.

“My husband bought that car for me shortly before he passed on,” she said softly. “I have never ridden in it since his death. … You appreciate nice things, and I’m going to give this car to you.”

“Why, aunty,” he said, “you overwhelm me. I appreciate your generosity, of course; but I couldn’t possibly accept it. I’m not even a relative of yours. I have a new car, and you have many relatives that would like to have that Packard.” “Relatives!” she exclaimed. “Yes, I have relatives who are just waiting till I die so they can get that car. But they are not going to get it.”

“If you don’t want to give it to them, you can very easily sell it to a secondhand dealer,” he told her.

“Sell it!” she cried. “Do you think I would sell this car? Do you think I could stand to see strangers riding up and down the street in that car—that car that my husband bought for me? I wouldn’t dream of selling it. I’m going to give it to you. You appreciate beautiful things.” He tried to get out of accepting the car, but he couldn’t without hurting her feelings.

This lady, left all alone in a big house with her paisley shawls, her French antiques, and her memories, was starving for a little recognition. She had once been young and beautiful and sought after. She had once built a house warm with love and had collected things from all over Europe to make it beautiful. Now, in the isolated loneliness of old age, she craved a little human warmth, a little genuine appreciation—and no one gave it to her. And when she found it, like a spring in the desert, her gratitude couldn’t adequately express itself with anything less than the gift of her cherished Packard.

Let’s take another case: Donald M. McMahon, who was superintendent of Lewis and Valentine, nurserymen and landscape architects in Rye, New York, related this incident.

“Shortly after I attended the talk on ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ I was landscaping the estate of a famous attorney. The owner came out to give me a few instructions about where he wished to plant a mass of rhododendrons and azaleas.

“I said, ‘Judge, you have a lovely hobby. I’ve been admiring your beautiful dogs. I understand you win a lot of blue ribbons every year at the show in Madison Square Garden.’

“The effect of this little expression of appreciation was striking.

“‘Yes,’ the judge replied, ‘I do have a lot of fun with my dogs. Would you like to see my kennel?’

“He spent almost an hour showing me his dogs and the prizes they had won. He even brought out their pedigrees and explained about the bloodlines responsible for such beauty and intelligence.

“Finally, turning to me, he asked: ‘Do you have any small children?’

“‘Yes, I do,’ I replied, ‘I have a son.’

“‘Well, wouldn’t he like a puppy?’ the judge inquired.

“‘Oh, yes, he’d be tickled pink.’

“‘All right, I’m going to give him one,’ the judge announced.

“He started to tell me how to feed the puppy. Then he paused. ‘You’ll forget it if I tell you. I’ll write it out.’ So the judge went in the house, typed out the pedigree and feeding instructions, and gave me a puppy worth several hundred dollars and one hour and fifteen minutes of his valuable time largely because I had expressed my honest admiration for his hobby and achievements.” George Eastman, of Kodak fame, invented the transparent film that made motion pictures possible, amassed a fortune of a hundred million dollars, and made himself one of the most famous businessmen on earth. Yet in spite of all these tremendous accomplishments, he craved little recognitions even as you and I.

To illustrate: When Eastman was building the Eastman School of Music and also Kilbourn Hall in Rochester, James Adamson, then president of the Superior Seating Company of New York, wanted to get the order to supply the theater chairs for these buildings. Phoning the architect, Mr. Adamson made an appointment to see Mr. Eastman in Rochester.

When Adamson arrived, the architect said: “I know you want to get this order, but I can tell you right now that you won’t stand a ghost of a show if you take more than five minutes of George Eastman’s time. He is a strict disciplinarian. He is very busy. So tell your story quickly and get out.” Adamson was prepared to do just that.

When he was ushered into the room he saw Mr. Eastman bending over a pile of papers at his desk. Presently, Mr. Eastman looked up, removed his glasses, and walked toward the architect and Mr. Adamson, saying: “Good morning, gentlemen, what can I do for you?” The architect introduced them, and then Mr. Adamson said: “While we’ve been waiting for you, Mr. Eastman, I’ve been admiring your office. I wouldn’t mind working in a room like this myself. I’m in the interior-woodworking business, and I never saw a more beautiful office in all my life.” George Eastman replied: “You remind me of something I had almost forgotten. It is beautiful, isn’t it? I enjoyed it a great deal when it was first built. But I come down here now with a lot of other things on my mind and sometimes don’t even see the room for weeks at a time.” Adamson walked over and rubbed his hand across a panel. “This is English oak, isn’t it? A little different texture from Italian oak.”

“Yes,” Eastman replied. “Imported English oak. It was selected for me by a friend who specializes in fine woods.”

Then Eastman showed him about the room, commenting on the proportions, the coloring, the hand carving and other effects he had helped to plan and execute.

While drifting about the room, admiring the woodwork, they paused before a window, and George Eastman, in his modest, soft-spoken way, pointed out some of the institutions through which he was trying to help humanity: the University of Rochester, the General Hospital, the Homeopathic Hospital, the Friendly Home, the Children’s Hospital. Mr. Adamson congratulated him warmly on the idealistic way he was using his wealth to alleviate the sufferings of humanity. Presently, George Eastman unlocked a glass case and pulled out the first camera he had ever owned—an invention he had bought from an Englishman.

Adamson questioned him at length about his early struggles to get started in business, and Mr. Eastman spoke with real feeling about the poverty of his childhood, telling how his widowed mother had kept a boardinghouse while he clerked in an insurance office. The terror of poverty haunted him day and night, and he resolved to make enough money so that his mother wouldn’t have to work. Mr. Adamson drew him out with further questions and listened, absorbed, while he related the story of his experiments with dry photographic plates. He told how he had worked in an office all day, and sometimes experimented all night, taking only brief naps while the chemicals were working, sometimes working and sleeping in his clothes for seventy-two hours at a stretch.

James Adamson had been ushered into Eastman’s office at ten-fifteen and had been warned that he must not take more than five minutes; but an hour had passed, then two hours passed. And they were still talking.

Finally, George Eastman turned to Adamson and said, “The last time I was in Japan I bought some chairs, brought them home, and put them in my sun porch. But the sun peeled the paint, so I went downtown the other day and bought some paint and painted the chairs myself. Would you like to see what sort of a job I can do painting chairs? All right. Come up to my home and have lunch with me and I’ll show you.” After lunch, Mr. Eastman showed Adamson the chairs he had brought from Japan. They weren’t worth more than a few dollars, but George Eastman, now a multimillionaire, was proud of them because he himself had painted them.

The order for the seats amounted to $90,000. Who do you suppose got the order—James Adamson or one of his competitors?

From the time of this story until Mr. Eastman’s death, he and James Adamson were close friends.


Claude Marais, a restaurant owner in Rouen, France, used this principle and saved his restaurant the loss of a key employee. This woman had been in his employ for five years and was a vital link between M. Marais and his staff of twenty-one people. He was shocked to receive a registered letter from her advising him of her resignation.

M. Marais reported: “I was very surprised and, even more, disappointed, because I was under the impression that I had been fair to her and receptive to her needs. Inasmuch as she was a friend as well as an employee, I probably had taken her too much for granted and maybe was even more demanding of her than of other employees.

“I could not, of course, accept this resignation without some explanation. I took her aside and said, ‘Paulette, you must understand that I cannot accept your resignation. You mean a great deal to me and to this company, and you are as important to the success of this restaurant as I am.’ I repeated this in front of the entire staff, and I invited her to my home and reiterated my confidence in her with my family present.

“Paulette withdrew her resignation, and today I can rely on her as never before. I frequently reinforce this by expressing my appreciation for what she does and showing her how important she is to me and to the restaurant.”

“Talk to people about themselves,” said Disraeli, one of the shrewdest men who ever ruled the British Empire, and they will listen for hours.”


Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.



Become genuinely interested in other people.




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


Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.


Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.


Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.

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