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Dear Interrogators,

When I was about twelve years old, my mom gave me a copy of Dale Carnegie's famous, 1936 genre-defining self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. I suspect that my mom was not particularly popular as a teenager, and I think she wanted me to do better.

I did. I don't know if How to Win Friends and Influence People had anything to do with it, but I still remember some of the advice, so something from the book must have stuck with me. One of the things that stood out in my mind was Dale Carnegie's firm conviction that people are, by and large, fundamentally egocentric, and consequently enjoy talking about themselves, their own passions, and their own interests above all else. The trick to captivating conversation then is to prompt your partner for stories about themselves and the stuff they care about. Blathering on about yourself makes you a conversational bore, but a couple of observant questions that express genuine interest in your partner can launch someone…

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