Mark Twain, Doing the Right Thing and Interpersonal Competence

Interpersonal competence is one of the keys to career and life success that I discuss in “Straight Talk for Success.”  If you want to become interpersonally competent, you need to do three things.  1) Become self aware.  Develop a deep understanding of yourself, your strengths and weaknesses.  2) Build solid, long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with the important people in your life.  3) Learn how to resolve conflict in a positive manner.

Yesterday, I was driving behind a bus.  There was an ad on the back that had this quote from Mark Twain, “Always do right.  This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

This quote goes to the heart of interpersonal competence – especially your ability to build strong relationships.  Interpersonally competent people build relationships by doing the right thing – all the time.  They become known as people of high integrity who can be trusted.  It’s easier to build relationships when you are seen as someone of high integrity.

On the other hand, Mark Twain makes a sad but true comment on life.  He’s saying that integrity is such a rare quality that people are surprised, astonished even, when they encounter it.  Acting with integrity can set you apart, and help you be seen as someone who is interpersonally competent.

I love the new ad campaign on personal responsibility by Liberty Mutual Insurance. You can see one of the ads in this campaign here.  The latest ad begins with a family at a fairground.  The father sees a broken bottle on the ground.  He picks it up and throws it in a trash can.  A woman who is watching this is moved to help an old man up some steps.  Someone observes her and offers a hand to someone else; etc. etc. etc.

These ads always give me a good feeling.  Their point is simple: we all can take personal responsibility for making the world a kinder, gentler and better place, and that Liberty Mutual is doing its part to make it so.  It’s like what Mark Twain has to say, we are astonished by other people who are direct and truthful, and who go out of their way to help others.

Have you seen these ads?  What do you think?  Please leave a comment, sharing your impression of them.

As the commercials show, in most cases doing the right thing is not that difficult.  Yet when we do, we distinguish ourselves as an interpersonally competent person.  And interpersonal competence is an important key to career and life success.

The common sense point here is simple.  Do the right thing.  In most cases, doing the right thing – whether it’s picking up a piece of trash, allowing someone to cut in front of you in traffic, helping someone who is old and slow, complimenting someone on an achievement, or just saying “thank you” — is not much more difficult that not doing so.  However, when you do the right thing, and act in an interpersonally competent manner, people notice.  So do yourself, and others, a favor and do the right thing.  You know what it is – so just do it.

That’s my take on Mark Twain and doing the right thing.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment letting us know what you think.  I value and appreciate all of your comments.  Thanks for reading – and writing.


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  1. Bud,

    Good stuff. It is so obvious once said, but unfortunately many people don’t live by the code that you and I apparently share. Mark Twain is an endless supply of wisdom and quotes. Great idea using him as an example. How can I learn more about what you are doing? Do you have a newsletter or blog I can sign up for? It is probably on your site somewhere.

  2. Fred:
    You can sign up at

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