Jeffersonian Manners

December 05, 2012


Learn from Jefferson

Build Your Networks Over Dinner

With the recent publication of “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” (Jon Meacham, 2012) many of us are rediscovering the author of the Declaration of Independence, governor of the State of Virginia, founder of the University of Virginia, and president of the United States. Not least among Jefferson’s talents was his ability to use a simple dinner invitation to change the course of political events.

In a recent New York Times op-ed piece, Meacham highlighted Jefferson’s “dinner campaigns,” which, according to the Pulitzer Prize winning author, were enormously effective at tampering opposition to Jefferson’s political agenda. Meacham writes that Republicans acknowledged that “the President’s dinners had silenced them” at times when they more likely to oppose the Administration.

According to Meacham, Jefferson understood that entertaining “softened his foes.” It is a lesson that every intern, summer associate and new hire should learn: Showing genuine hospitality to people who share discordant views creates the opportunity to develop new understandings.

When starting work, few new professionals really require an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of what I call “fish fork etiquette.” But all of us should remember that the use of good manners helps create a more civil society, one that doesn’t get gummed up by petty bickering.

What Do You Need to Know?

You can build a great network by developing relationships over business meals.



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