At a Woodrow Wilson Foundation dinner in 2006, I was invited to be the emcee. Here’s what I said to kick off the occasion:

“I asked my wife, Carol Ann, what kind of words might suit the occasion. ‘Whatever you do,” she said,

  • ‘Don’t try to sound intellectual,
  • Don’t try to be sophisticated…or charming.
  • Just be yourself!'”

The roar of the crowd confirms how worldly wise Carol Ann’s advice was. Being yourself is hardly as easy as it sounds. For salespeople, sounding phony is a career kiss of death. Learn who your real self is and let it shine in the best possible light.


There are two myths about being yourself that deserve to be vaporized:

1. I can like everyone, if I set my mind to it. No, you can’t. And not everyone you meet will like you either. For every person you meet who says, “There are no strangers here, only friends we haven’t met,” there’s another who says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” There will be people who just never warm up to you, and there will be people you won’t want to get to know no matter how pleasant or charming they seem. The wise salesperson knows the difference between being friendly and polite to everyone versus sensing when there is real chemistry.

2. People who lie to each other are more likely to agree.  If only that were true. You can pick up many business magazines and find stories about how two friends went into business together and wound up mortal enemies. Good friends will either learn to discuss only those things they agree about or else just agree to disagree when they have differences.   U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch and the late Ted Kennedy were good friends, but you never heard either one praising the other’s political beliefs during Senate debates.

As Raymond Hull, Laurence J. Peter’s collaborator in The Peter Principle, put it:
“He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.”

The doorway to being yourself is liking yourself. It is hard to have confidence in a salesperson who doesn’t like herself or himself.

Mackay’s Moral: Oscar Wilde had it right: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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