Thomas Jefferson certainly knew how to handle people. (Descriptions like this are part of why I seriously doubt the idea that Jefferson had Asperger’s or the like)
At his usual dinner parties the company seldom or ever exceeded fourteen, including himself and his secretary. The invitations were not given promiscuously, or as has been done of late years, alphabetically, but his guests were generally selected in reference to their tastes, habits and suitability in all respects, which atten tion had a wonderful effect in making his parties more agreeable, than dinner parties usually are; this limited number prevented the company’s forming little knots and carrying on in undertones separate conversations, a custom so common and almost unavoidable in a large party.
At Mr. Jefferson’s table the conversation was general; every guest was entertained and interested in whatever topic was discussed. To each an opportunity was offered for the exercise of his coloquial powers and the stream of conversation thus enriched by such various contributions flowed on full, free and animated: of course he took the lead and gave the tone, with a tact so true and discriminating that he seldom missed his aim, which was to draw forth the talents and information of each and all of his guests and to place every one in an advantageous light and by being pleased with themselves, be enabled to please others. Did he perceive any one individual silent and unattended to, he would make him the object of his peculiar attention and in a manner apparently the most undesigning would draw him into notice and make him a participator in the general conversation.
One instance will be given, which will better illustrate this trait in Mr. Jefferson’s manners of presiding at his table, than any verbal description. On an occasion when the company was composed of several distinguished persons and the conversation earnest and animated, one individual remained silent and unnoticed; he had just arrived from Europe, where he had so long been a resident, that on his return he felt himself a stranger in his own country and was totally unknown to the present company. After, seemingly, without design led the conversation to the desired point, Mr. Jefferson turning to this individual said, “To you Mr. C, we are indebted to this benefit, no one more deserves the gratitude of his country.” Every eye was turned on the hitherto unobserved guest, who honestly looked as much astonished as any one in the company.
The President continued, “Yes, Sir, the upland rice which you sent from Algiers, and which thus far succeeds, will, when generally adopted by the planters, prove an inestimable blessing to our Southern states.” At once, Mr. C. who had been a mere cypher in this intelligent circle, became a person of importance and took a large share in the conversation that ensued.