Never Be Too Clever

“Ideal conversation must be an exchange of thought, and not, as may of those who worry most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition of wit or oratory.” Post, E. (1937)

I recently found my Grandmother’s copy of Etiquette, by Emily Post. Her 1937, 3rd edition was complete with a “This book belongs to” sticker and pencil checkmarks next to the chapters she had read. She was a master of conversation, and her check next to “Conversation” was earned.

Here are my top 5 conversation lessons from that edition. Although 15 more editions have been printed since, I am currently reading the 18th, I find these lessons from her 1937 version insightful, helpful and in some cases ridiculous, but true.

5 Lessons from Emily Post’s Etiquette

  1. Think Before You Speak-First for a reason. This lesson makes an appearance in nearly every edition of Emily’s book. The current edition also includes “Think Before You Click”, “Think Before You Hit Send”, and “Think Before You Hit Comment.”
  2. Dangers to Avoid-“Do not be too apparently clever if you would be popular. The cleverest woman is she who, in talking to a man, makes him seem clever.” As ridiculously antiquated as this one might seem, within the last year my team, and I were told these exact words by our manager regarding a campaign idea. It didn’t just happen once; it eventually became our group mantra. It incenses me to play to the lowest common denominator in marketing or life.
  3. The Bores or the Bored-“People who talk too easily are app to talk too much, and at times imprudently, and those with vivid imaginations are often unreliable in their statements.” Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. If “I” and “me” are dominating your conversations, it’s time to take a breath and listen for Christ’s sake.
  4. Good-Tempered Gossip-“Good-tempered, amusing gossip, like salt, adds to the flavor but is best used sparingly.” I love salt; I love gossip. Lesson learned I am cutting back on both. Us Weekly, E! News, People: I need a break. Chili Cheese Fritos, Queso Dip, and potato chips: I’m just not that into you anymore.
  5. The Bore- “A bore is said to be ‘one who talks about himself when you want to talk about yourself!’ This is superficially true, but a bore might more accurately be described as one who insists on telling you at length something that you don’t want to hear about at all.” Please refer to #3.

I will part with this, always be too clever. If “they” don’t get it, it’s their loss.