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The Art Of Conversation:
Introduction To Conversation
Principles Of Conversation
If You Can Talk Well
Culture By Conversation
Rules For Conversation
Reflections On Conversation
Happiness Through Conversation
Conversation And Courtesy

Conversation And Courtesy

( Originally Published 1913 )



Nowhere is there room for the display of good manners so much as in conversation. It is a part of good manners not to talk too much. Remembering that the first syllable of the word conversation is con (with), that it means talking with another, we should abstain from lecturing, and be as ready to listen as to talk. Our anecdote or sharp reply will keep, or need not find utterance at all; so we are not under the necessity of interrupting our companion, and voting him by our looks a bore, or at least an interruption to our own much better remarks. But besides the rule, that we should not be impatient to get in our word, that a few brilliant flashes of silence should occur in our conversation, another rule is, not to take for our theme-ourselves. We must remember that, as a rule, we and our concern can be of no more importance to other men than they and their concerns are to us.

Every one will understand from painful experience what is meant by a bore, though it is not easy to describe the creature. A bore is a heavy, pompous, meddling person who harps on one string, occupies an undue share of conversation, and says things in ten words which required only two; all the time being evidently convinced that he is making a great impression. "It is easy," says Sydney Smith, "to talk of carnivorous animals and beasts of prey; but does such a man, who lays waste a whole party of civilized beings by prosing, reflect upon the joys he spoils and the misery he creates in the course of his life? And that any one who listens to him through politeness, would prefer toothache or earache to his conversation? Does he consider the extreme uneasiness which ensues when the company have discovered a man to be an extremely absurd person, at the same time that it is absolutely impossible to convey to the terrible being, by words or manner, the most distant suspicion of the discovery? And then who punishes this bore? What sessions and what assizes for him? When the judges have gone their vernal and autumnal rounds, the sheep-stealer disappears, the swindler has been committed to penal servitude. But after twenty years of crime, the bore is discovered in the same house, in the same attitude, eating the same soup, still untried, unpunished." -Hardy



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