Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Guide to Social Graces

Guest commentary by Postmodern Conservative.

“Every man of any education would rather be called a rascal, than be accused of deficiency in the graces.“—Samuel Johnson

The following is a list of social graces compiled by a gentleman of experience, who has offended against most of them.

1. Don’t invite yourself into the conversations of others. Do not ask “what are you talking about?” or “what are you laughing about?” If people want you to know they’ll tell you.

2. Prefer brevity to volubility. Keep your answers relevant, and do not go into intimate details when unnecessary. When people ask “how are you doing?” reply “I am fine.” They do not want your life story.

3. If you find the conversation of most people boring, assume they feel the same about you. The less we speak, the better conversationalists we become, and the more people will prefer our company.

4. Avoid activity that draws attention to yourself. Do not guffaw loudly or talk at high volume among strangers. Do not assume that the entire world is interested in your cell-phone conversation.

5. Be observant. Size up the situation and the audience before speaking. Do not act like a talk show host who dispenses opinions indiscriminately.

6. Do not be unduly helpful. Quiet compassion is more appreciated than ostentatious sympathy. The latter is an excuse to indulge our own emotions rather than to soothe those of others.

7. Do not spend much time being “unique.” People who make a point of not being boring become predictable in their non-conformity.

8. Choose your battles. Don’t be a zealot about everything, especially matters of taste. Your judgments will carry more weight the more sparingly you utter them.

9. Complain less. Most of our trials are minor irritations that everyone is subject to. The amount of sympathy we obtain is inversely proportional to our whining.

10. Be slow to criticize. Do not offer unsolicited advice.

(P.S. Point 10 may be optional, especially if one is a blogger.)