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