If you’ve been visiting here at my blog for awhile, you know that I’ve been working on Mark Twain’s autobiography all summer. Well, working on reading it, not writing it. If you are new here, now you know. Ehem. Anyway, over the last few cycles of the moon, good ole Mark has given me a lot of ideas about modern engagement online, as strange as that may seem. Since we’re winding down the engagement series now, I thought it would be apropos to share all of the wisdom Mr. Twain has shown me about interacting with other folks.
1. If you’re going to talk about yourself all day every day, you’d better make clear why people should care
2. Don’t rob the dickens out of people, morally or financially. You could end up in someone’s autobiography, and they could say really not nice things about you!
3. Don’t proclaim your expertise. A real expert may hear you.
4. Cherish the people you care about while you can. Once they’re gone, all you can do is remember them.
5. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
6. Don’t try to pretend you go “way back” with someone when you don’t. Twain often talks about people who would come up to him and say, “Oh, I went to school with you.” He would say (to himself, of course), “Uh, no you didn’t.” It just made the person look foolish in his eyes.
7. Be honest about your intentions.
8. Don’t be too trusting of people, especially if they want something.
9. Don’t assume that anyone but you has your best interest at heart (and make sure you really do have your best interests front and center. Otherwise you can really get taken for a ride).
10. If you challenge someone to a duel of any kind, be fully prepared to get shot (in other words, if you can’t take it don’t dish it).
11. If a story, sob or otherwise, seems too incredible to believe, it probably is.
12. People who don’t like most people are the best gauge of what kind of person you are. Mark Twain didn’t like a whole lot of people, but he was eternally loyal to those he did care about.
13. Even the smartest person can be a complete fool when it comes to some things.
14. Sometimes, things you think are funny are horrifying to others. Twain recounts a story where he gave a talk at a very fancy, button-down event. He recounted a tale that he thought was hilarious, but the audience was so horrified there was not a peep afterward. He was utterly humiliated and blocked the whole event from his mind for 25 years. Be aware of who you are talking to and how they are reacting!
15. Sometimes people seem to do things that don’t make any sense, but if you knew the whole story, you’d say you’d do the exact same thing. If you point a finger, there are always 2 pointing back at you.
16. Most of the time, when you badmouth someone, it comes back to bite you. Eventually. A lot of people badmouthed Twain, and they sure are paying for it now!
17. When you care about someone, work your hardest to build up their strengths. For all of his gifts, Twain was terribly absent-minded about a lot of every day things. His wife knew this and did her best to keep him on the straight and narrow. For example, they worked out a code so that she could help him behave at dinner parties. It’s easy to mock and to pick on people. It takes a warm heart to strengthen another person, though. I would argue it’s even harder to do that in the online world.
18. Sometimes you get remembered for your least attractive qualities – don’t assume familiarity is always a compliment. Twain recollects one nanny the family hired who swore in German incessantly, much to his amusement.
19. Sometimes people do ridiculously stupid things and there’s nothing you can do about it. When he was a little boy, Twain heard about how Measles was going around the town. Everyone was horribly frightened, and he felt so nervous about it that he decided he would just go on ahead and catch it and end the suspense. He snuck into the bedroom of a friend who was very ill, and in fact, Twain almost died of the Measles. Sometimes our worst enemy is us. Twain’s mother and the parents of his friends could do nothing to stop his crazy activities.
20. Make sure the story (or idea) you are describing is actually yours. Twain notes that his older brother wrote up a little autobiography once and a whole chapter was dedicated to something that actually happened to Twain. Twain couldn’t believe it, but he let it go. He figured his brother must have told the story so many times he really believe it had happened to him. Be careful about this in the online world, though. People may not be so forgiving!
So there you have it. Twenty tidbits of social media wisdom from someone who lived a century ago. What do you think?
This is post #97 in the Engagement Series. I hope you are (still) enjoying it!