Vintage Saturday: A Look At Advice from 1860

Cherished readers, The Lady came across this advice from the The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness by Florence Hartley.  The Lady believes that both of these pieces of advice still stand today. Enjoy a little look back at Conversation Advice.

Never interrupt any one who is speaking. It is very Ill-bred. If you see that a person to whom you wish to speak is being addressed buy another person, never speak until she had heard and replied; until her conversation with that person is finished. No truly polite lady ever breaks in upon a conversation or interrupts another speaker. 

It is a mark of ill-breeding to use French phrases or words, unless you are sure your companion is a French scholar, and even then, it is best to avoid them. Above all, do not use any foreign word or phrase, unless you have the language perfectly at your command. I heard a lady once use a Spanish quotation; she had mastered that one sentence alone;  but a Cuban gentleman, delighted to meet an American who could converse with him in his own tongue, immediately addressed her in Spanish. Embarrassed and ashamed, she was obliged to confess that her knowledge of the language was confined to one quotation. 

Best Vintage Memory Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Manners Monday: Personal Questions

Cherished readers, The Lady had an interesting discussion with a friend on the subject of personal questions. She was amazed that her daughter-in-law actually answered when someone asked her age. I could sympathize with her surprise, but I also acknowledge that the younger generations are generally much more open about things than we ancients are. (The Lady is not really ancient…but she likes to pretend to be of a different era.)

Even with these more open, free social customs, The Lady believes that the following examples fall into the category of personal questions:

-How much money do you make/have/plan to inherit?

-How much did this cost? How can you afford this?

-When are you going to have children/stop having more children/discipline the children you have?

-What exactly is wrong with your health?

-Why are you getting divorced?

-How much do you weigh? (Ha…you knew that one was going to make the list!)

-Did you have some work done? (Referring to plastic surgery, not work on the house or car)

-Is it real? (Whatever it is…a gemstone, bosom, derriere, hair, etc…)

In all things, cherished readers, discretion is your friend. No probing questions.

Best Manners Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Conversational Faults To Avoid

Cherished readers, The Lady speaks to many people in the course of the week and her hectic social schedule. The best conversationalists have great poise and self-assurance and remember that conversation is a two-way street. Based on my extensive experience speaking with the multitudes (tee-hee) I have compiled a list of faults that one should avoid in seeking to make interesting and pertinent conversation:

Repeating the same story over and over is irritating and implies that one thinks their listeners are not paying attention…or even….lacking intelligence. (Horrors)

Unkindness or unpleasantness are never appropriate. Needless to say, it is never appropriate to speak of ill of those not present.

The conceited person thinks he is most interesting and that everyone wishes to know his opinion on a myriad of topics. The Lady believes correcting others falls into the category of conceit as well as long-winded pomposity.

Self-pity and doom and gloom. The Lady has always said that when someone asks “How are you?” they do not want to hear a litany of problems ranging from having gout, to having financial problems, to the kids performing poorly in school. Private problems should only be discussed with close family or friends.

Words and phrases that add nothing to the conversation. The Lady includes “You know” “I mean” “Listen” “Like” and others.

Name dropping….adds nothing to a conversation. The Lady is doubtful people even know those whose names are bandied about freely in regular conversation.

Evil gossip….it is never well-mannered to spew hurtful rumors or comments (even if true!) The best rule is to only say pleasant things. (None of this “if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit next to me”…unless you are the Dowager Countess of Grantham then you can say whatever you like.)

Best Conversational Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

 

 

Manners in Conversation: Dangerous Topics

Cherished readers, The Lady Hooper-Brackett presents this to you as a general guideline when you are out and about and schmoozing…those times when you may have to be around others whose views and beliefs are unknown to you. It is always better to be circumspect; remember put people at ease.

  1. Money is a dangerous topic, expecially directly asking someone what something costs, how much they earn. The person who is asked such questions, has every right to ignore the asker.
  2. Age is subject to be deftly avoided due to the sensitivity some people have about their age. Let’s face it, yes…if you are entering a contract with someone, then the question is appropriate, but not in general social situations. If someone asks you how old you are, feel free to ignore this one, too.
  3. Gossip can cause all sorts of problem. avoid being the spreader of this muck. Want to stop a gossiper? Ask them pointedly “How do you know this?” It is funny how most gossipers won’t be able to answer.
  4. Advice is only given if it is asked for, and even then, I’d be uncomfortable giving it.
  5. Religion and politics….avoid at all costs. Yes, even in this time of wicked polarization on both subjects.

Best Converational Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett