To Speak to acquire the art of conversation in a superior degree, there must be intimacy with those who possess refinement and general information. There must also be observed certain general rules in order to accomplish the best results, prominent among which are the following:

What To Observe And What To Avoid When Talking

n the first place, in order to converse well, there must be knowledge; there must be a command of language, assisted by imagination: there must be understanding of the rules of construction to frame sentences aright; there must be confidence and self-possession, and there must be courage to overcome failure.


To be an excellent conversationalist is a very desirable accomplishment. We talk more than we do anything else. By conversation we may make friends, we may retain them, or we may lose them. We may impart information; we may acquire it. We may make the company with whom we associate contented with itself, or we can sow inharmony and discord. Our success in life largely rests upon our ability to converse well; therefore, the necessity of our carefully studying what should and what should not be said when talking.

How To Please In Conversation

Use clear, distinct words to express your ideas, although the tone of your voice should be subdued.

Be cool, collected and self-possessed, using respectful, chaste and appropriate language.

Always defend the absent person who is being spoken of, as far as truth and justice will permit.

Allow people that you are with to do their full share of the talking if they evince a willingness to converse.

Beware of talking much about yourself. Your merits will be discovered in due time without the necessity of sounding your own praises.

Show the courtesy, when another person joins the group where you are relating an incident, of recapitulating what has been said, for the advantage of the new-comer.

Recollect that the object of conversation is to entertain and amuse; the social gathering, therefore, should not be made the arena of dispute. Even slight mistakes and inaccuracies it is well to overlook, rather than to allow inharmony to present itself.

Aim to adapt your conversation to the comprehension of those with whom you are conversing. Be careful that you do not undervalue them. It is possible that they are as intelligent as yourself, and their conversation can, perhaps, take as wide a range as your own.

Remember that the person to whom yon are speaking is not to blame for the opinion he entertains. Opinions are not made by us, but they are made for us by circumstances. With the same organization, training and circumstances around us, we would have the same opinions ourselves.

Remember that people are fond of talking of their own affairs. The mother likes to talk of her children, the mechanic of his workmanship, the laborer of what he can accomplish. Give every one an opportunity, and you will gain much valuable information besides being thought courteous and well-bred.

Be patient. The foreigner cannot, perhaps, recall the word he desires; the speaker may be slow of speech; you may have heard the story a dozen times; but even then you must evince interest and listen patiently through. By so doing you gain the esteem of the person with whom you are conversing.

What To Avoid In Social Conversation

Do not manifest impatience.
Do not engage in argument.
Do not interrupt another when speaking.
Do not find fault, although you may gently criticise.
Do not talk of your private, personal and family matters.
Do not appear to notice inaccuries of speech in others.

The refinement and culture of an individual can be largely deter-mined by the tone of voice and the manner of speaking. In ordinary conversation the wild gesticulation, the coarse and boisterous laugh, and the uncouth position are all indicative of ill-breeding. In such a domestic group as is here represented the ties of nature may be quite as strong as in more refined circles, and yet the tendency is to introduce a variety of topics into the general conversation that were better not discussed. The rude jest, the coarse criticism of absent ones, the unclean song and the foolish retort, are the natural outgrowth of such a gathering. Education and knowledge of the rules that govern polite society would have prevented such a scene as this by providing instruction and lessons of culture and refinement. While there is at the present day every facility for improving the minds of the young, it is no less true that politeness and respect for superiors are not properly taught.

Refinement As Indicated By Conversation

Do not allow yourself to lose temper or to speak excitedly.
Do not allude to unfortunate peculiarities of any one present.
Do not always commence a conversation by allusion to the weather.
Do not, when narrating an incident, continually say "you see," "you know," etc.
Do not introduce professional or other topics in which the company generally cannot take an interest.

Do not talk very loud. A firm, clear, distinct, yet mild, gentle and musical voice has great power.
Do not be absent-minded, requiring the speaker to repeat what has been said that you may understand.
Do not speak disrespectfully of personal appearance when any one present may have the same defects.
Do not try to force yourself into the confidence of others. If they give their confidence, never betray it.
Do not use profanity, vulgar terms, slang phrases, words of double meaning, or language that will bring the blush to any person.
Do not intersperse your language with foreign words and high-sounding terms. It shows affectation, and will draw ridicule upon you.
Do not carry on a conversation with another in company about matters of which the general company knows nothing. It is almost as impolite as to whisper.
Do not allow yourself to speak ill of the absent if it can be avoided: the day may come when some friend will be needed to defend you in your absence.
Do not speak with contempt and ridicule of a locality where you may be visiting. Find something to truthfully praise and commend; thus make yourself agreeable.
Do not make a pretense of gentility, nor parade the fact that you are a descendant of any notable family. You must pass for just what you are, and must stand on your own merit.
Do not contradict. In making a correction say, "I beg your pardon, but I had an impression that it was so and so." Be careful in correcting, as you may be wrong yourself.
Do not be unduly familiar; you will merit contempt if you are. Neither should you be dogmatic in your assertions, arrogating to yourself much consequence in your opinions.
Do not be too lavish in your praise of various members of your own family when speaking to strangers; the person to whom you are speaking may know some faults that you do not.
Do not allow yourself to use personal abuse when speaking to another, as in so doing you may make that person a life long enemy. A few kind, courteous words might have made him a life-long friend.
Do pot discuss politics or religion in general company. You probably would not convert your opponent, and he will not convert you. To discuss those topics is to arouse feeling without any good result.
Do not make a parade of being acquainted with distinguished or wealthy people, of having been to college, or of having visited a foreign country.

Cultured And Refined

In the social gathering here brought to view we have a strong con-trast to that on the opposite page. The positions are graceful and easy, with quietude and gentleness of manner, and the self-possession which true politeness always produces. An air of refinement in dress and gesture indicates a degree of mental culture secured by early training and the careful observance of the rules of social etiquette. In such a circle we should naturally expect the utterance of only the finest sentiments, the earnestness of sincerity, the purest of wit. Nothing is strained, far-fetched or improper, and the conversation is of that character that all may take a part in it and impart or receive lessons of truth and beauty, the remembrance of which will last as long as life itself. It is not necessary, in order to reap these advantages, to amass immense wealth. Even in the humblest households politeness, good nature and an easy demeanor may be cultivated with the happiest effects.

Do not use the surname alone when speaking of your husband or wife to others. To say to another, that "I told Jones," referring to your husband, sounds badly. Whereas, to say, "I told Mr. Jones," shows respect and good-breeding.

Do not feel it incumbent upon yourself to carry your point in conversation. Should the person with whom you are conversing feel the same, your talk will lead into violent argument.

Do not yield to bashfulness. Do not isolate yourself, sitting back in a corner, waiting for some one to come and talk with you. Step out; have something to say. Though you may not say it very well, keep on. You will gain courage and will improve. It is as much your duty to entertain others as theirs to amuse you.

Do not attempt to pry into the private affairs of others by asking what their profits are, what things cost, whether Melissa ever had a beau, and why Amarette never got married. All such questions are extremely impertinent, and are likely to meet with rebuke.

Do not whisper in company; do not engage in private conversation; do not speak a foreign language which the general company present may not comprehend, unless it is understood that the foreigner is unable to speak your own language.

Do not take it upon yourself to admonish comparative strangers on religious topics; the persons to whom you speak may have decided convictions of their own in opposition to yours, and your over-zeal may seem to them an impertinence.

Do not aspire to be a great story-teller; an inveterate teller of long stories becomes very tiresome. To tell one or two witty, short, new stories, appropriate to the occasion, is about all that one person should inflict on the company.

Do not indulge in satire; no doubt you are witty, and you could say a most cutting thing that would bring the laugh of the company upon your opponent, but you must not allow it, unless to rebuke an impertinent fellow who can be suppressed in no other way.

Do not forget that "words are the chariot wheels of thought," and that Dr. Samuel Johnson, Addison and Goldsmith won honor by the grace and eloquence of their language.

Do not spend your time in talking scandal; you sink your own moral nature by so doing, and you are, perhaps, doing great injustice to those about whom you talk. You probably do not understand all the circumstances. Were they understood, you would, doubtless, be much more lenient.

Do not flatter; in doing so you embarrass those upon whom you bestow praise, as they may not wish to offend you by repelling it, and yet they realize that if they accept it they merit your contempt. You may, however, commend their work whenever it can truthfully be done; but do not bestow praise where it is not deserved.

As written: may contain OCR errors

References: ETIQUETTE

Etiquette Politeness Parties In General
The Visiting Guest   Calling Etiquette
Conversation Etiquette   Public Amusement
Attending Balls Dinner Parties Formal Dinners

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Music French Terms Order of Dances
Programme Gentlemen Guide Deportment
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Virginia Reel Polka Waltz