37 Conversation Rules for Gentlemen from 1875

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 19, 2013 · 84 comments

in A Man's Life, On Etiquette


Editor’s note: The excerpt below 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. There are some real gems here — some of which truly gave me a chuckle.

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…Many there are who, giving their opinion, not as an opinion but as a law, will defend their position by such phrases, as: “Well, if were president, or governor, I would,” — and while by the warmth of their argument they prove that they are utterly unable to govern their own temper, they will endeavor to persuade you that they are perfectly competent to take charge of the government of the nation.

2. Retain, if you will, a fixed political opinion, yet do not parade it upon all occasions, and, above all, do not endeavor to force others to agree with you. Listen calmly to their ideas upon the same subjects, and if you cannot agree, differ politely, and while your opponent may set you down as a bad politician, let him be obliged to admit that you are a gentleman.

3. Never interrupt anyone who is speaking; it is quite rude to officiously supply a name or date about which another hesitates, unless you are asked to do so. Another gross breach of etiquette is to anticipate the point of a story which another person is reciting, or to take it from his lips to finish it in your own language. Some persons plead as an excuse for this breach of etiquette, that the reciter was spoiling a good story by a bad manner, but this does not mend the matter. It is surely rude to give a man to understand that you do not consider him capable of finishing an anecdote that he has commenced.

4. It is ill-bred to put on an air of weariness during a long speech from another person, and quite as rude to look at a watch, read a letter, flirt the leaves of a book, or in any other action show that you are tired of the speaker or his subject.

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. Never assume an air of haughtiness, or speak in a dictatorial manner; let your conversation be always amiable and frank, free from every affectation.

6. Never, unless you are requested to do so, speak of your own business or profession in society; to confine your conversation entirely to the subject or pursuit which is your own specialty is low-bred and vulgar. Make the subject for conversation suit the company in which you are placed. Joyous, light conversation will be at times as much out of place as a sermon would be at a dancing party. Let your conversation be grave or gay as suits the time or place.

7. In a dispute, if you cannot reconcile the parties, withdraw from them. You will surely make one enemy, perhaps two, by taking either side, in an argument when the speakers have lost their temper.

8. Never, during a general conversation, endeavor to concentrate the attention wholly upon yourself. It is quite as rude to enter into conversation with one of a group, and endeavor to draw him out of the circle of general conversation to talk with you alone.

9. A man of real intelligence and cultivated mind is generally modest. He may feel when in everyday society, that in intellectual acquirements he is above those around him; but he will not seek to make his companions feel their inferiority, nor try to display this advantage over them. He will discuss with frank simplicity the topics started by others, and endeavor to avoid starting such as they will not feel inclined to discuss. All that he says will be marked by politeness and deference to the feelings and opinions of others.

10. It is as great an accomplishment to listen with an air of interest and attention, as it is to speak well. To be a good listener is as indispensable as to be a good talker, and it is in the character of listener that you can most readily detect the man who is accustomed to good society.

11. Never listen to the conversation of two persons who have thus withdrawn from a group. If they are so near you that you cannot avoid hearing them, you may, with perfect propriety, change your seat.

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. If, however, another, particularly an old man, tells a long story, or one that is not new to you, listen respectfully until he has finished, before you speak again.

13. Speak of yourself but little. Your friends will find out your virtues without forcing you to tell them, and you may feel confident that it is equally unnecessary to expose your faults yourself.

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. Speak of the merits of each one, but do not try to heighten the virtues of one by contrasting them with the vices of another.

16. Avoid, in conversation all subjects which can injure the absent. A gentleman will never calumniate or listen to calumny.

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. They sometimes make a very piquant addition to conversation, but when they become a constant habit, they are exceedingly tedious, and in bad taste.

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. They are in bad taste, because many will not understand them. If, however, you unconsciously use such a term or phrase, do not then commit the still greater error of explaining its meaning. No one will thank you for thus implying their ignorance.

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. Above all, do not by a word or gesture show impatience if he makes pauses or blunders. If you understand his language, say so when you first speak to him; this is not making a display of your own knowledge, but is a kindness, as a foreigner will be pleased to hear and speak his own language when in a strange country.

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. You lay yourself open to both censure and bad ridicule, and you may feel sure that, for every person who laughs with you, two are laughing at you, and for one who admires you, two will watch your antics with secret contempt.

25. Avoid boasting. To speak of your money, connections, or the luxuries at your command is in very bad taste. It is quite as ill-bred to boast of your intimacy with distinguished people. If their names occur naturally in the course of conversation, it is very well; but to be constantly quoting, “my friend, Gov. C,” or, “my intimate friend, the president,” is pompous and in 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. It is in excessively bad taste to drag in a grave subject of conversation when pleasant, bantering talk is going on around you. Join in pleasantly and forget your graver thoughts for the time, and you will win more popularity than if you chill the merry circle or turn their innocent gayety to grave discussions.

27. When thrown into the society of literary people, do not question them about their works. To speak in terms of admiration of any work to the author is in bad taste; but you may give pleasure, if, by a quotation from their writings, or a happy reference to them, you prove that you have read and appreciated them.

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. You may utter, in the heat of passion, words which you would never use in a calmer moment, and which you would bitterly repent when they were once said.

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. Avoid, if you can, seeing the skeleton in your friend’s closet, but if it is paraded for your special benefit, regard it as a sacred confidence, and never betray your knowledge to a third party.

32. If you have traveled, although you will endeavor to improve your mind in such travel, do not be constantly speaking of your journeyings. Nothing is more tiresome than a man who commences every phrase with, When I was in Paris,” or, “In Italy I saw…”

33. When asking questions about persons who are not known to you, in a drawing-room, avoid using adjectives; or you may enquire of a mother, “Who is that awkward, ugly girl?” and be answered, “Sir, that is my daughter.”

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. If you flatter your superiors, they will distrust you, thinking you have some selfish end; if you flatter ladies, they will despise you, thinking you have no other conversation.

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.

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jimmy June 19, 2013 at 6:08 pm

These will definitely be placed to good use! Thank you!

2 AoM June 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm

This very well written and helpful. I recently had questions about what is considered appropriate when engaging in a conversation.

3 William Peregoy June 19, 2013 at 7:17 pm

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


Actually, this whole list is pure gold.

4 John Smith June 19, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Great article! Thank you!

5 Willravel June 19, 2013 at 7:28 pm

We should be careful looking into the past for models of how we should act as men in 2013. We’ve had quite a long journey as a species of several genders, and really it’s only recently that we’ve started again toying with what we might call egality. It’s not that all the above advice is bad, in fact much of it appears just fine and dandy, but we’re living in an age when masculinity is undergoing a series of long-overdue makeovers. We should look to yesterday with the understanding that it provides us with a sense of trajectory when compared to today, so we can ponder what we might be tomorrow.

6 Ethan June 19, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Hey guys! I’m loving this, I’ll have to bookmark it for later reference, much like many of your posts.
Friendly heads up, in the tab for the page it says 38 Conversation Rules instead of 37.

7 Erwin June 19, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Thanks. Ask you something? ’3., on interruptions’ – it is actually my pet peeve. I make it a point never to interrupt other people in conversation, and all the girls I have ever dated have observed the same. However, in my professional life as a junior professor, I keep getting interrupted by other, more senior members of the establishment all the time, and no matter how many times I ask them to let me finish speaking, they continue to shove their view down my throat – until I lash out at them for their bad manners. It has actually led to one pretty bad fallout with a friend … do you have any suggestions on coping with interruptions by senior people?

8 Mike June 19, 2013 at 8:01 pm

This was an excellent post, I especially enjoyed rule 33 it was one of the more humorous one’s on the list but its does dispense good advice. Keep up the great work!

9 Amy June 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm

#4 – update it with “looking at phone” and it’s perfectly relevant and timely.

10 jerry June 19, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Of course the trolls will use this against the civilized.

11 Andre June 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm

31. is brilliant.
I witnessed a person being told, after his brother hanged himself, to, “hang in there”

I was outraged, and spoke up, but was told to get off my high horse.

12 tedsmitts June 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Wait, I have to avoid gossip and calumny? Well there goes Friday.

13 TH June 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Beautiful. I’m a female but I wish every man (and woman?) had to read this blog and take notes on each article.

14 Ryan June 19, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Great stuff, thanks for posting.

15 Mark June 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Great post, but kind of sad that the things we are told to avoid seem to be the very things half the internet insists on doing.

16 Magister Ludi June 19, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Erm, I’m afraid that senior people do not interrupt according to Victorian gentlemen’s etiquette…
Perhaps you can use the fact that you know they will interrupt you to make you say what you want them to say, I am sure they tend to repeat a few ideas most of the time. Set them up.

17 Tim June 19, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Loved the whole article

18 paul June 19, 2013 at 10:32 pm

It’s frustrating, isn’t it. It’s also something I used to do myself, till I realised how irritating I found it.

I think the only real answer is to listen quietly to whoever interrupts, then carry on from precisely where you were interrupted. It takes a lot of patience, but others present will notice – you will get a reputation as someone who listens and makes thoughtful points.

Great article AoM. Lots that I already knew, and a couple that I were new to me that I will now follow. Thanks.

19 Cory June 19, 2013 at 10:34 pm

A poster of this would be awesome.

20 Sammy June 19, 2013 at 11:10 pm


I’m guilty of every rule but a couple. How truly awful!

21 Erik June 20, 2013 at 12:47 am

@Erwin: in that case, rules 30 and 9 apply. But it wouldn’t hurt to distinguish between rules for general encounters and rules for the professional environment, especially when it concerns a high IQ, where conversations should move faster. Losing your temper and viewing interruptions by your esteemed colleagues as having their opinions shoved down their throat; I wonder how they will see you.
A general by the way: conversational rules from 1875, that is still very much in the stiff and boring Victorian era.

22 Tammy June 20, 2013 at 12:47 am

This was amazing! I wish these rules were still practiced by the populous today, for women aswell. I have to say how encouraging it was to see all the positive comments from men that I read just now–there are some men who still want to be gentlemen left in this world!

23 Gene Z. June 20, 2013 at 1:13 am

Unfortunately, I’m guilty to way too many of these. It’s useful to actually see it written out, though. Thanks for the post!

24 Rodger June 20, 2013 at 1:29 am

What a privilege it is to be able to decide what is acceptable behavior for everyone regardless of the context of the discussion. How deplorable to actually do it.

25 Kevin June 20, 2013 at 2:16 am

Great list, and also agreeing with Willravel. How about updating it for 2013? ;)

26 Remy Sheppard June 20, 2013 at 4:52 am

This is a great list. There were a few things on here I’ve observed as a matter of common sense, but a few things were a pretty solid rebuke. I think I’m going to work on doing this stuff.

If I could add one thing to the list it would be ‘Silence’. I think a lot of men underestimate the importance and power of silence in daily conversation.

27 Christian Gehrke June 20, 2013 at 5:08 am

I love these! I must admit I am guilty of failing to adhere to some of them. But not anymore.

28 Alex June 20, 2013 at 5:53 am

Oh dear, I feel like I have been berated for my awful conversation skills the whole way through. Excellent advice!

29 Darren June 20, 2013 at 6:45 am

I wish that the hosts of political “debate” shows and certain individuals who comment on message boards would read this article.

Although I do have a feeling that the uncivilised behaviour on message boards is partly due to the bad example set by certain individuals in the media.

30 Jeremy June 20, 2013 at 7:28 am

SUPERB article. Well posted and very thought provoking.
@Erwin: As a person who struggles with this, myself (learning to not interrupt people and also being interrupted), I can offer the following tidbits from “As a gentleman would say:”
1. When a Gentleman is subjected to rudeness, he does not offer rudeness in return
2. When a Gentleman feels that he has been subjected to an insult, he immediately knows the right response: he responds by saying nothing at all.

In my opinion, your course of action is twofold – and please bear in mind this is exactly what I named it – my opinion:
1. Under no circumstances lash out at your coworkers. However bad or boorish their behavior, it’s still a choice to do so on your part. Their poor manners don’t excuse a poor response.
2. I would let a very direct and obvious silence be my response. When they interrupt, simply stop talking and wait. Don’t look bored, don’t be obvious, just wait. When they stop talking, continue as though they had never interrupted. Even if they never get the hint, those around you will see that you can conduct yourself better than your more “senior” members and it will make a difference, sooner or later.

I hope that helps, and good on you for wanting to find a better way to deal with the situation!

31 Scott June 20, 2013 at 7:45 am

This reminds me of George Washington’s Rules of Civility. The best advice is timeless. Despite the many changes in the modes and media of our conversations, these rules still apply and only seem outdated in that far too many disregard them. Leading by example, I suggest we attempt to alter the trajectory of our collective manners; that would be a long-overdue makeover.

Erwin, to answer your question, refer to #2 and #19. Lashing out at them for their bad manners is too pedantic to be polite. In the end you will find maintaining good relations with friends and elders far more important than being right in the moment. You may “differ politely” secure in the knowledge you were right. Arguing will neither allow them to ruminate on your points nor you on theirs. Instead, try to understand what makes them think the ways they do. You will find you can be much more patient with people you understand.

32 Richard June 20, 2013 at 7:57 am

So many of these can be used as guidelines for an Internet forum. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow them for that use…

33 Anthony June 20, 2013 at 8:00 am

@Erwin: it’s just part of human makeup, for senior people to be less courteous to junior people. It’s wrong, but it consistently happens over time and over all types of society: that is, it doesn’t have anything to do with being in an educational establishment. Your job is to be the gracious gentleman even when being rudely interrupted. Insisting on your right to be heard will do you more harm than they, in the long run: they’re already senior, after all. And, of course, make a point of not doing that once you become senior (or when you talk to your students, to whom you are the senior person).

34 wolf June 20, 2013 at 8:12 am

short summary:

don’t make the ignorant, and the stupid
aware of their state.

Better: AVOID socializing with such.

35 Cary June 20, 2013 at 8:43 am

This is a great article. I love starting my day with some wisdom like this.

36 Rafeeq June 20, 2013 at 8:50 am

This article is timely, and useful.
Thank you.

37 Stan R. Mitchell June 20, 2013 at 9:17 am

I think a great one to add is look whoever you’re talking to in the eye, and don’t glance over their shoulder or turn your attention away to look at some other person in the room.

This is one of my pet peeves. Especially when people are looking over your shoulder at someone else.

38 linda mcmaken June 20, 2013 at 9:43 am

I truly wish many of these were still in use today. In fact, I wish just one of them — pick any one — were applied to those in Washington, DC.

Great article!

39 Sherry Clayton June 20, 2013 at 11:00 am

Amazing post! These rules are applicable to everyone. I have learned so much from your site. Thanks for all that you do in sharing such wisdom. I’ve recently subscribed to your YouTube channel as well.

Wishing you much success.

40 Michael June 20, 2013 at 11:28 am

Wow. Just wow.

41 Benjamin B. June 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Here is a link to the free book,I just got it for Kindle!


42 Lena June 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm

As a gal, I thoroughly agree with #37.

43 Ned June 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Great Article! Thanks.

44 John June 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm

A very useful set of rules, but these days you may have to break a few to merely stay in a conversation.

I must confess to intentionally breaking the first rule for my own amusement. I take care who I do this around.

I’d have to add “be careful who you discuss religion around”.

45 Tim Robertson June 21, 2013 at 12:28 am

A great read and something to think about and read again. Thanks, McKays!

46 Jenna F June 21, 2013 at 12:48 am

Here’s the summary of each one! (Edited for brevity.)

Know when to walk away.
If you can’t stop an argument from getting ugly, don’t take sides.
Don’t force your opinion on anyone. Agree to disagree.
Don’t interrupt or speak over others.
Don’t hog the conversation. Let other people talk.
Give people your full attention.
Don’t be the guy that only talks about work. Don’t use professional jargon when you’re not at work.
Don’t make people feel bad by discussing topics they don’t have knowledge of.
Be a good listener.
Don’t eavesdrop.
Actions speak louder than words.
Flattery is cheap.
Accept people on their individual merits.
Don’t gossip. Don’t talk about someone when they’re not there to defend themselves.
Don’t use clichés. Speak well but don’t be a slave to formalities.
Don’t nit-pick. Don’t correct others’ verbal mistakes.
Be patient with people who don’t speak your language.
Don’t always try to be the funny guy.
Don’t name drop.
Don’t bring other people down with your problems.
Don’t be a suck-up.
Don’t be the wanker who always quotes things in French.
Don’t be crude.
Think before you speak. Choose your word carefully. Always be mindful of your audience.
Don’t give unwarranted advice.

47 Joe June 21, 2013 at 4:37 am

Another excellent post Brent. And so timely! I too am guilty of most of these offenses.
I am now inspired to improve my conversational conduct. Thank you for challenging me to be a better man!

48 Cody June 21, 2013 at 8:30 am

I only count 37, although they’re all great.

49 Daublin June 21, 2013 at 8:38 am

@Erwin, Count me in as feeling that pain on occasion. In the workplace, everyone there has to justify their abilities, and yet at the same time everyone is always talking about what each other is doing.

The manly advice on conversation is very important in such situations. While it’s important not to be a total pansy of a lady-man, it quickly gets to the point where the real man should suck up the insult and gracefully exit the conversation topic.

In many cases, the other party is already convinced but is fighting on just because they don’t want to be embarrassed. In such a case, I figure it is a net win to give up now anyway. You’ve already increased their faith in your abilities, which is pure gold. You also often gain the substance of the argument, too; once nobody is watching, they will often go along with your suggestion anyway.

50 Bill June 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm

#38… Avoid speaking in shorthand. All too often the shortened phrase or expression that makes sense to you will ultimately confuse others and can led to disputes. And for the record, saying “LOL” out loud really is not actually the same as a good hardy laugh out loud. ijs :)

51 Matt June 21, 2013 at 5:45 pm

#38. Avoid pointing out the mistakes of the author. It is in bad taste. And no, you’re not the first or only one to notice.

52 Steve June 21, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Superb and completely useful. As always, treat others as you would wish to be treated. I might add only; avoid work-related technical jargon, acronyms, abbreviations, etc. if you are with those not in the know.

53 Xavier June 22, 2013 at 9:01 am

Loved this list. I saw a couple of my own faults there (as I’m sure most people did), but knowing is half the battle. And there I go again, speaking in cliches. The other rule I have trouble not breaking is making quotations in other languages when speaking to English speakers (especially Spanish, my mother’s tongue).

54 Fernandes June 22, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Thank you for the post. Time to apply those advices.

55 Hans June 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Mr. Willravel,
It would be very illustrating, if you can give some examples on how, at least some of the above rules should be adapted to the actual time. I think, that to behave under gentenmanly rules, has nothing to do with the actual “masculinity makeovers”. It has more to do with behaving under rules that show respect and consideration to others in aspects that should never change, no matter how the concept of masculinity wants to be changed. The same rules can apply for women’s behavior.

56 Johnny June 23, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Thank you for the advice! Gives a new perspective

57 Diego June 24, 2013 at 9:59 am

Great article! Thank you, Sir.

58 Gabriel June 24, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Great article. I myself have been looking to work on my conversational skills for some time now and have made some dramatic changes in how I approach conversations. This was truly done by self studying the art of conversation to which I am still a willing student. I personally feel someone who applies the majority of the criteria stated is someone who brings the best out of you and others and that`s someone you want to be around. Listening in itself is a wonderful compliment one can give someone in a conversation. But this is solid advice here gentlemen I am definitely going to be do my best to apply this to my conversational etiquette. Again great post.

59 Brian Manning June 24, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Number 9 is great. A rule all men should follow. I think its a rule all people should follow.
There are not more things (in my opinion) that are more of a turn off than someone who boasts of their accomplishments with intent to make themselves feel better at someone’s expense.
Great article. Love it.

60 Bob June 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Ouch! I’m guilty of quite a few, more than I would have expected.More to learn, as always.
Thanks for passing along the great advice.

61 Tony June 27, 2013 at 5:04 am

Personally I usually follow Winston Churchills lead.

62 Ronald June 27, 2013 at 11:26 pm


For the other articles about dress, grooming, etc. I would agree that these things change with time; but I will defend the relevance of this article by saying that it offers perennial lessons that have very little to do with whether or not it is 1875 or 2013 and more to do with something in human nature, i.e., the need for a wholesome social life.
Moreover, I submit that the concept of masculinity has indeed changed since 1875, but more in a way that turns it into a “preference” than an actual reality, much less something to be valued and cultivated (as shown in an earlier article on the new vs. old Boy Scout Manual). I believe the revival of such decent, gentlemanly behavior, by lessons such as these, is what is needed to retain a clear-minded understanding of masculinity.

63 Paul June 28, 2013 at 9:25 am

About gossip: it’s certainly good to refrain from doing it, but how does one gracefully navigate a conversation when the other party, man or woman, is gossiping?

64 Shane June 30, 2013 at 10:18 am

This list is a fantastic creation; one that deserves more attention from young men and men of any age, really. The classical style of gentlemanly behavior has all but faded, and needs a strong renewal. Kudos!

65 Pat July 1, 2013 at 2:19 pm

#34 is a double standard. Gossip is bad, regardless of gender, and it’s just as bad in women as in men.

66 CS July 1, 2013 at 8:46 pm

I definitely need to work on #24. I never realized it until now.

“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. You lay yourself open to both censure and bad ridicule, and you may feel sure that, for every person who laughs with you, two are laughing at you, and for one who admires you, two will watch your antics with secret contempt”.

67 Cody July 2, 2013 at 10:21 am

Taking it to heart

68 Richard July 11, 2013 at 3:11 am

So very true.What a guide.

69 Lucy July 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Funny! And for many I kept thinking, “So true.”

Especially #37; as a woman, I can say first hand, when a guy walks up to me and gives me a compliment, I’ll usually say thank you…and then there’s a long, awkward pause. Compliments are not a good conversation starter.

70 Poppy July 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm

These are cute! I especially agree with the last one.

But the one about not supplying words that non-native speakers have forgotten. I guess it’s so they don’t feel that you’re getting impatient with them, but when I’m speaking other languages it’s just so much better and easier when people help me along a bit when I’ve forgotten something.

71 Sarah July 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm

great article. this is how my family raised me and I swear it’s a lost art. great post!

72 Rustin July 21, 2013 at 12:31 am

The foundation of all of these: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

73 David MacGuire August 1, 2013 at 11:42 pm

The officers of the Royal Navy had unwritten laws to never discuss religion, money, women or work at the dinner table. It helped keep the peace during very long cruises on very small ships.

74 Dangerous Linda August 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm

i stumbled on your website in the process of researching the art of conversation for an article i’m writing. my question is: what is the purpose of conversation? is it merely to make people like you? if that’s the case, the above rules make perfect sense.

i thought the purpose of conversation was to share and explore ideas. then, some of the above advice becomes dicier such as: “Make your own share in conversation as modest and brief …If, however, another, particularly an old man, tells a long story, or one that is not new to you, listen respectfully until he has finished…”

thank you for sharing your ideas!

75 Souljah August 6, 2013 at 4:17 am


76 Evan Williams August 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I am super guilty of #32…. i tend to overshare when it comes to my short year and a half stent in Italy.

77 DannyJane August 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm

It’s all well and good to adopt the demeanor as described, however to do so leaves one prey to inundation by an army of bores, fools, hypocrites and idiots. Polite behavior certainly has its place, but surely the survival of one’s sanity must ultimately take precidence when yet another blowhard begins yet another tirade on a subject he know little or nothing about. Perhaps the author has an acceptable means of withdrawing when said discussion reaches the point of the unendurable?

78 McLancel Elvis September 10, 2013 at 12:23 am

Speak less of what you don’t know or refrain from it in its entirety. Another great post of the millenium

79 Liam October 9, 2013 at 4:39 pm

its shocking how many kids, myself included (before reading this), in high school have no idea about the common sense simple rules of etiquette.

80 Chris November 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

31 is one that always gets my goat in conversations. I have many friends who love to talk about their experiences in top-tier grad schools despite knowing that, despite good credentials, I didn’t get in to any of the programs I applied to. It feels really lousy.

Same sort of thing with 32; I have never been able to afford to travel abroad. There is one thing worse though, which is people who talk about how “important” it is to travel to foreign countries and how it’s something “everyone should do”, as if everyone can.

I don’t mean to complain but to point out that these things can not only annoy, but can be hurtful to other people.

I’ve met people who are very fond of 25. They usually are highly amusing, but nobody respects them much, and people often assume they are pathological liars. At least, I do.

81 Chris November 25, 2013 at 12:04 pm

McLancel Elvis, you have made the world a better place with that comment.

82 Ben Deejoy December 1, 2013 at 4:39 am

Splendid and very inspiring rules. I guess leaving out #38 speaks of the gentlemanliness in the author; #38: not all rules are written, be creative, flexible and contextual as a gentleman. Thanks a lot!

83 Nate January 3, 2014 at 4:25 am

I spent this week consciously working on number 8 while at a family function out of town:

“Never, during a general conversation, endeavor to concentrate the attention wholly upon yourself. It is quite as rude to enter into conversation with one of a group, and endeavor to draw him out of the circle of general conversation to talk with you alone.”

I don’t know how well I did for certain, but the exercise sure brings to the attention how annoying it can be when others violate this rule. I couldn’t believe it. I’m mortified that I normally violate it myself so often.

Is this reply a violation of the rule by the way? Could someone comment on this? I feel like I’m not sure how to rephrase this sort of thing properly if I am.

Anyway, I ordered a hard copy on Amazon. Thanks for the post.

84 joe February 22, 2014 at 6:20 pm

PAT: Yes there is a double standard in #34 but bear in mind these were written in 1875. Women were 50 odd years away from equal voting rights, were domestic slaves (pretty much) and im sure subject to spousal rape on the regular as well as untold other injustices. I would imagine the distinction of gossip being ‘detestable’ or ‘despicable’ would have been, literally, the least of their worries. Great list thoug.h

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