*mindTHINGS: 37 Rules of Conversation circa 1875

The excerpt comes from a book published in 1875: A Gentleman’s Guide to Etiquette by Cecil B. Hartley. Hartley’s rules may be over 100 years old, but they’re just as true today as they ever were.

1. Even if convinced that your opponent is utterly wrong, yield gracefully, decline further discussion, or dexterously turn the conversation, but do not obstinately defend your own opinion until you become angry.

2. Retain, if you will, a fixed political opinion, yet do not parade it upon all occasions.

3. Never interrupt anyone who is speaking.

4. It is ill-bred to put on an air of weariness during a long speech from another person.

5. In a general conversation, never speak when another person is speaking, and never try by raising your own voice to drown that of another.

6. Never, unless you are requested to do so, speak of your own business or profession in society.

7. In a dispute, if you cannot reconcile the parties, withdraw from them.

8. Never, during a general conversation, endeavor to concentrate the attention wholly upon yourself.

9. A man of real intelligence and cultivated mind is generally modest.

10. It is as great an accomplishment to listen with an air of interest and attention, as it is to speak well.

11. Never listen to the conversation of two persons who have thus withdrawn from a group.

12. Make your own share in conversation as modest and brief as is consistent with the subject under consideration, and avoid long speeches and tedious stories.

13. Speak of yourself but little.

14. If you submit to flattery, you must also submit to the imputation of folly and self-conceit.

15. In speaking of your friends, do not compare them, one with another.

16. Avoid, in conversation all subjects which can injure the absent.

17. The wittiest man becomes tedious and ill-bred when he endeavors to engross entirely the attention of the company in which he should take a more modest part.

18. Avoid set phrases, and use quotations but rarely.

19. Avoid pedantry; it is a mark, not of intelligence, but stupidity.

20. Speak your own language correctly; at the same time do not be too great a stickler for formal correctness of phrases.

21. Never notice it if others make mistakes in language. To notice by word or look such errors in those around you is excessively ill-bred.

22. If you are a professional or scientific man, avoid the use of technical terms.

23. In conversing with a foreigner who speaks imperfect English, listen with strict attention, yet do not supply a word, or phrase, if he hesitates.

24. Be careful in society never to play the part of buffoon, for you will soon become known as the “funny” man of the party, and no character is so perilous to your dignity as a gentleman.

25. Avoid boasting. To speak of your money, connections, or the luxuries at your command is in very bad taste.

26. While refusing the part of jester yourself, do not, by stiff manners, or cold, contemptuous looks, endeavor to check the innocent mirth of others.

27. When thrown into the society of literary people, do not question them about their works.

28. It is extremely rude and pedantic, when engaged in general conversation, to make quotations in a foreign language.

29. To use phrases which admit of a double meaning, is ungentlemanly.

30. If you find you are becoming angry in a conversation, either turn to another subject or keep silence.

31. “Never talk of ropes to a man whose father was hanged” is a vulgar but popular proverb. Avoid carefully subjects which may be construed into personalities, and keep a strict reserve upon family matters.

32. If you have traveled, although you will endeavor to improve your mind in such travel, do not be constantly speaking of your journeyings.

33. When asking questions about persons who are not known to you, in a drawing-room, avoid using adjectives.

34. Avoid gossip; in a woman it is detestable, but in a man it is utterly despicable.

35. Do not officiously offer assistance or advice in general society. Nobody will thank you for it.

36. Avoid flattery. A delicate compliment is permissible in conversation, but flattery is broad, coarse, and to sensible people, disgusting.

37. A lady of sense will feel more complimented if you converse with her upon instructive, high subjects, than if you address to her only the language of compliment. In the latter case she will conclude that you consider her incapable of discussing higher subjects, and you cannot expect her to be pleased at being considered merely a silly, vain person, who must be flattered into good humor.

See the full article @ ArtOfManliness

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