How my wife traveled the royal road to my heart

“The royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most” (Dale Carnegie)

This section of Dale Carnegie’s 30 Human Relations principles is subtitled “Become a friendlier person.” Often when people are working through this section, they want to know when do they get to talk about what’s important to them? Sometimes people will say that it seems like Mr. Carnegie was saying that we should never talk.

He wasn’t, of course. He taught public speaking classes for crying out loud, and he himself spoke professionally nearly every day of the week at one thing or another. The purpose of these principles is not to turn us all into wall flowers that never talk, not at all. What they are about is helping us to be friendlier people.

The truth is that most people don’t need help when it comes to talking about themselves in daily conversation. Sure, there are some people who are more shy than others, but generally speaking, once a person starts talking about themselves they can go on for quite some time without much help. But, if we want to be friendlier people, then we must learn to listen more, and have the other person talk more. And, to learn that skill, we need to exaggerate ourselves a bit to get into the habit.

In the quote above, Mr. Carnegie was actually talking about President Theodore Roosevelt, and that he knew that fact to be true. Roosevelt had a habit of spending time researching the topics that were most important to those he’d be meeting with. He wanted to make sure that when he conversed with them, that he could talk about the things that they were interested in, and do so with some knowledge. Along the way, he also let them know, by taking the time and effort to get to know their topics, that he truly cared about them, and what was important to them. President Roosevelt might have lived over a century ago, but what he knew then applies to us today.

When I first started dating the wonderful woman who eventually became my wife, I was still mostly a bumbling fool. I had no real knowledge of how to get along with people. I tended to be argumentative, and bull headed. She was far smarter in these things than I was.

We met in college. When I was in High School I had been on the debate team. Trust me when I tell you that is a double edged sword. On the one hand, I became skilled in public speaking, but on the other, I also became skilled in argumentation and winning points. My debate coach called it “debaters syndrome,” we became skilled in the ways of debate and were too inexperienced to know when to shut it off.

When I met my future wife, I was volunteering as a part-time debate coach back at my High School. I would spend a good bit of my time after school during the week, and on Saturdays, working with the boys from my school, teaching them how to win their debates and increase their skill.

As I said, my wife was far smarter than I was about how to get to know someone, and how to travel the “royal road” to my heart. Do you know what she did? She came along with me when I was coaching. She got to know how I coached, what debating was about, and what it took to become a skilled debater. Did she do this because she had a particular interest in becoming a debater? Not at all. She did it because she knew it was important to me, so she took up a genuine interest in what I was doing.

The truth is I was already falling madly in love with her by the time she started tagging along on debate Saturdays, but the fact remains that part of the reason we became so close was that she took up a special interest in what was important to me.

I’d like to be able to say that I did similar things for her, and to some degree I did. But, I wasn’t as smart as she was, she was miles ahead of me when it came to knowing how to win another person’s heart.

If you want to travel the “royal road to a person’s heart”, learn to speak in terms of their interests. Get to know a bit about what they treasure, and do it sincerely. As you do, you will find your friendship with them deepening.

Principle 8 – Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

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