There’s Room at the Table

In 1936 Dale Carnegie proposed that there are “six ways to get people to like you.”

Here’s his list:

  1. Be genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember people’s names.
  4. Be a good listener.
  5. Talk in terms of other’s interests.
  6. Make people feel important and do it sincerely.

– from How to Win Friends and Influence People

Not on the list?

  1. Share your accomplishments.
  2. Demonstrate your worthiness.
  3. Take yourself seriously.
  4. Describe your competence in detail.
  5. Act self-important.
  6. Tell an anecdote that makes you sound interesting.

Is this all self-evident? Is it obvious that humility and curiosity are the benchmarks of likability and therefore the cornerstones of connection? Most people would say so but I still see behaviors – and even notice impulses in myself – that contradict that sentiment.

The need to prove our worthiness seems to me the single greatest impediment to the establishment of mutually generative relationships. The drive to make sure “they know what I’ve done and what I can do” disallows the flowering of our natural interest in others because it keeps us bound by the disabling trio of comparison, competition and scarcity.

When we seek to connect, to build trust, to establish meaningful relationships we do not have to prove our merits or establish our bona fides. We simply have to remember three things:

  1. Each of us has an offering to make.
  2. Each of us has a ‘best’ way to make it.
  3. There is plenty of room at the table.

I have learned to trust that the better I get – the more focused, the more thoughtful – at making that true for others, the more others will make it true for me.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

2 thoughts on “There’s Room at the Table

  1. Excellent blog, once again, David! My dad must have read Carnegie’s book and took it to heart because that it the “by-line” of his life. We didn’t know a lot about Dad’s life because he always turned the conversation around to the other guy/you. I’ve tried to emulate that in my life as well…seems a good thing to strive toward. On the other side, we need to teach this to our children….instead of all the shallow cheering on at every minute, a camera in their face documenting just how incredibly awesome they are. There’s self-esteem and then there’s a point at which it loses meaning because its done allll the time! I see this in my work with children…so different now than even 5 years ago. Praise is good. Balance is better. Humility trumps all.

    • Thanks, Marcia! Yes, as I was writing this piece I thought about the dilemma of being so “others” focused that no one gets a chance to know you. It’s a balancing out, to be sure. As for praise and balance, I couldn’t agree more. We call it the “American Idol” phenomenon in our house…when those really lousy singers audition we say, “It’s just too bad no one ever bothered to tell them that they can’t sing!” : )

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