Charm Offensive

“Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves”—Dale Carnegie

The other day, I visited a church to hear someone I had recently met, a pastor from Russia, give a sermon as the visiting speaker. After the service, the church gave a luncheon for the congregation of 300 or so. Sitting next to me during lunch was the visiting pastor’s daughter, a 15-year old homeschooled girl. As she and I talked, I kept thinking to myself, “Is this girl for real?”

This young Russian had every reason to talk about herself: Already a world traveler who spoke English so perfectly she had to convince people she wasn’t really from California. But, she didn’t talk about herself or her many accomplishments. She talked to me, making eye contact, and asking me one question after another. Appropriate, yet personal, questions; questions about me. I thought, “In my more than 7+ decades on this planet, I can count on the fingers of one hand the young people who have engaged me in a conversation that wasn’t about them but was about me.

I had met this girl a few weeks earlier, in Israel. Her family had traveled from Russia on one of my Israel tours. During that time, she showed a deep interest in virtually everything she saw and heard (she and Einstein would have been true soul-mates as Einstein was fond of saying, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing”).

But this girl went further than even most adults go with her show of interest in the man sitting next to her. She was engaging an older person in a conversation about himself. I was impressed and thought, “I really like this person!”

Years ago, I came across a book entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People. I was intrigued by the simplicity of its message, a message written nearly 100 years ago by Dale Carnegie and whose little book of advice has sold some 15 million copies.

One of the premises of the book is that individuals inherently understand that few others know them well and most don’t really care, anyway (a theme echoed in some of C.S. Lewis’ writings). Because of this, a person who shows a genuine interest in another’s life gives that other person a gift rarely offered, a gift whose power is incalculable.

Years ago my wife tried to teach one of our sons the value of conversation, specifically of keeping a conversation alive. She was holding a ball as she began talking to our oldest son. When she finished her point, she tossed the ball to Seth. She told him that he was to respond to her point and then toss the ball back to her. She wanted to know how many times Seth could toss the ball back and forth before he ran out of things to say or before he turned the subject to what interested him.

I recommend that we teach our children the art of showing an honest and genuine interest in others, especially those who are older than they.  Again, showing a genuine interest in another person gives that other person a gift rarely offered.

I recommend that parents purchase a copy of this inexpensive little book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Read it aloud with your family and discuss its points and how you may apply its insights.

I look forward to seeing this girl’s family again soon. They have taught their daughters something rarely found in young people, or any people, for that matter!

And, of course, you can also purchase a copy of my newest book, Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally. Just click on the title and you will be taken to Amazon where you can purchase the book. If you would like a free copy of Chapter 1 of the book, go to the site where I have listed my favorite homeschooling materials and you may download the chapter for free. Go to:

For 14 years, I have taken homeschooling families and their friends to tour biblical Israel. Check out my travel site at

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