In conversation, one must scrupulously guard against vulgarisms. Simplicity and terseness of language are the characteristics of a well educated and highly cultivated person. It is the uneducated or those who are but half educated, who use long words and high-sounding phrases. A hyperbolical way of speaking is mere flippancy, and should be avoided. Such phrases as “awfully pretty,” “immensely jolly,” “abominably stupid,” “disgustingly mean,” are of this nature, and should be avoided. Awkwardness of attitude is equally as bad as awkwardness of speech. Lolling, gesticulating, fidgeting, handling an eye-glass or watch chain and the like, give an air of gaucherie, and take off a certain percentage from the respect of others.
The habit of listening with interest and attention is one which should be specially cultivated. Even if the talker is prosy and prolix, the well-bred person will appear interested, and at appropriate intervals make such remarks as shall show that he has heard and understood all that has been said. Some superficial people are apt to style this hypocrisy; but if it is, it is certainly a commendable hypocrisy, directly founded on that strict rule of good manners which commands us to show the same courtesy to others that we hope to receive ourselves. We are commanded to check our impulses, conceal our dislikes, and even modify our likings whenever or wherever these are liable to give offense or pain to others. The person who turns away with manifest displeasure, disgust or want of interest when another is addressing him, is guilty not only of an ill-bred, but a cruel act.
In conversation all provincialism, affectations of foreign accents, mannerisms, exaggerations and slang are detestable. Equally to be avoided are inaccuracies of expression, hesitation, an undue use of foreign words, and anything approaching to flippancy, coarseness, triviality or provocation. Gentlemen sometimes address ladies in a very flippant manner, which the latter are obliged to pass over without notice, for various reasons, while inwardly they rebel. Many a worthy man has done himself an irreparable injury by thus creating a lasting prejudice in the minds of those whom he might have made his friends, had he addressed them as though he considered them rational beings, capable of sustaining their part in a conversation upon sensible subjects. Flippancy is as much an evidence of ill-breeding as is the perpetual smile, the wandering eye, the vacant stare, and the half-opened mouth of the man who is preparing to break in upon the conversation.
BE SYMPATHETIC AND ANIMATED.
Do not go into society unless you make up your mind to be sympathetic, unselfish, animating, as well as animated. Society does not require mirth, but it does demand cheerfulness and unselfishness, and you must help to make and sustain cheerful conversation. The manner of conversation is as important as the matter.