The pink rhinoceros at the party

How to win followers and influence people

There was a pink rhinoceros at the cocktail party. All the guests saw it but no one talked about it. They believed it would be rude to do so, for who knows what reasons the hosts might have had to let it into the room. Maybe it was a dear pet. Maybe it escaped from wherever it was kept and the hosts couldn’t put it back in time. The hosts, for their part, didn’t talk about it either. For they thought it rude to make comments on guest’s companion, human or animal.

So the pink rhinoceros walked about the room, sometimes nibbling on the canap├ęs, sometimes bumping into the guests, but mostly standing around looking mildly confused.

Mr Grindle, as usual, was a great conversationist. He spoke at length and in great detail about the weather, history, sports, art, food, wine and the great events of the day. He was always at pain to be factually accurate. He went to great lengths to mention both sides of any debate, before stating his own position. He cited empirical evidence. His knowledge made him humble, and he readily acknowledged that there were limits to his own knowledge. He didn’t, however, even once mention the word rhinoceros, less acknowledge the pink animal that at the very moment, was trying to snatch grilled asparagus off his plate.

Mr Leroy’s idea of a good conversation was to listen to the sound of his own voice, which was usually in a state between a rant and a harangue. He usually spoke utter nonsense about the weather, history, sports, art, food, wine and the great events of the day. He was poorly informed, massively prejudiced and utterly illogical. His ignorance made him arrogant, and he would engage in sharp attacks on anyone who challenged his strongly held opinions. In his conversations, he not only mentioned the pink rhinoceros but said that such animals should not be allowed at cocktail parties. Moreover, he said, they bring bad luck to people who saw them, and the guests better be extra careful over the next few days.

As the guests went home, they were mostly of the view that Mr Leroy might have his faults, but is a far more credible man. After all, how could anyone believe in all the things Mr Grindle said, when he couldn’t even be trusted to mention the pink rhinoceros they could clearly see? Of course, Mr Leroy is the trustworthy one, because he talked about the animal and confirmed their fears that it would bring them bad luck.