Rules for ordinary conversation

«In his essay “On Duties”, Cicero remarked that nobody, to his knowledge, had yet set down the rules for ordinary conversation, though many had done so for public speaking.

He had a shot at it himself, and quickly arrived at the sort of list that self-help authors have been echoing ever since.

The rules we learn from Cicero are these:

speak clearly;

speak easily but not too much, especially when others want their turn;

do not interrupt;

be courteous;

deal seriously with serious matters and gracefully with lighter ones;

never criticise people behind their backs;

stick to subjects of general interest;

do not talk about yourself;

and, above all, never lose your temper.»

– “The art of conversation“, The Economist, Dec 19th 2006.


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