“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.”

“…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.”

Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People, 88.

I have the privilege of having close relationships with very young people, and senior adults. With my children, we’re regularly working on our social skills. Basic politeness, turns out, isn’t that basic, and takes practice. They’re doing very well so far.

I also have a weekly meeting with a group of retired guys. Lately, we’ve been taking turns telling our story. These fellows are classic gentlemen. They’ve learned Carnegie’s lessons long ago–that humility means we don’t constantly talk about ourselves, and work at the discipline of patient listening, and fostering genuine curiosity in the stories and concerns of the people around us.

This habit can develop into a kind of shyness–a humility that is reticent to volunteer to talk about ourselves. It’s lovely really.

But humility also means that we take our turn speaking. We aren’t the sole owners of the copyright of our story. It belongs to Our Lord. It belongs to our families. It belongs to the community. So, when you’re asked to speak, don’t make them beg. Don’t wave them off. Simply testify to the Lord’s goodness. We need to hear it.

Thank you, children, for listening and speaking. Thank you, my elders, for speaking and listening.