Book Excerpt: What Would Jackie Do?

Overlook faux pas. You mustn't let the minor transgressions of others interrupt your daily flow-or block your precious chi. When people stumble with their words, their manners, or their wit, there's just no need to take an emotional tumble. Jackie wouldn't give a damn if you said, "I love your Gucci!" (if in fact she was wearing Pucci) or "How was the bear hunt?" (when foxes were her thing).

To show how deftly Jackie handled such potentially embarrassing moments, a Doubleday colleague recalls how she stopped by his office to bum a book of matches. "As I was handing it to her, I noticed it had a JFK memorial stamp on it," he says. "It was a fleeting moment, not more than a second." Jackie didn't acknowledge any awkwardness. Ditto when interior decorator Mario Buatta came to dinner at her Fifth Avenue apartment and promptly split his pants on a chair. Without missing a beat, Jackie covered his back at the buffet.

Invoke others' names. Need a favor? Need to curry favor? Put a brake on the number of times you say "me" and "I." You'll seem like less of an egomaniac-and more of a conciliator-if you pin your request on someone else. Jackie was known to use such harmless substitutions to get what she wanted, saying things like, "Jack wants ..." or "My sister advises against," or "So-and-so won't allow ..." The less-than-overt method had its charms. "She could impose that will upon people without their ever knowing it," observed White House usher J. B. West.

Be a master flatterer. The point of advanced flattery is to remind someone how special he or she is, while also hinting at your utter dependency on them. This technique comes in handy when you are trying to salvage professional relationships or have something very specific to gain.

To snare a "magnificent" portrait of Benjamin Franklin for the White House, for example, Jackie rang up publishing magnate Walter H. Annenberg. She was ready to grovel, all right, but with an air of decorum and purpose: "You, Mr. Annenberg, are the first citizen of Philadelphia," she purred. "And in his day, Benjamin Franklin was the first citizen of Philadelphia. And that's why, Mr. Annenberg, I thought of you...." She went on to remind him that the White House-and America-desperately needed his tasteful acquisition. Are we at all surprised that he handed over the $250,000 painting by David Martin?

Dare to diss yourself. How to boost the comfort level when you're mingling outside your own social set? Knock yourself down by a precious peg or two. Jackie had a talent for making herself seem less rich, less smart, less beautiful when the situation warranted it. She was known, for instance, to refer to her Fifth Avenue manse as "this old dump." Even among those who sought to impress her (folly indeed), she held back. If someone prattled on about an obscure book, for example, "Jackie would be well mannered enough to say "I've never heard of that" when she'd read the whole thing," says her friend Carly Simon.

* * *

"If you want the world to adore you, you must take a deep interest in other people. Jackie was full of wonder and enthusiasm-with her, you felt you were the most important person." -DR. DEEPAK CHOPRA

* * *

NOBLESSE OBLIGE FOR BEGINNERS: How to Be a Goodwill Ambassador to Strangers, Colleagues, Malcontents

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Juan Pablo Montoya, of Colombia, celebrates after winning the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 24, 2015.
Darron Cummings/AP Photo
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
PHOTO: Actress/comedian Anne Meara attends the Comedy Hall Of Fame An Evening With Stiller And Meara at Museum of the Moving Image on March 10, 2011 in New York City.
George Napolitano/Getty Images