THE CHARM OF CORRECT SPEECHShare
It is strange, but true, that the spirit of conversation is often more important than the ideas expressed. This is especially true in social circles. Since speech is never used in solitude, we may take it for granted that the spoken word is an expression of the longing for human sympathy. Thus, it is a great accomplishment to be able to enter gently and agreeably into the moods and feelings of others, and to cultivate the feelings of sympathy and kindness.
Early in the seventeenth century the /causerie/ (chat) was highly esteemed in France. This was a meeting, at the Hotel Rambouillet, of the great nobles, literary people, and intelligent and brilliant women of France, gathered together for the definite purpose of conversation--of "chatting." Among these people, representing the highest intellectual class in France at the time, there developed the taste for daily talks-the tendency of which was toward profound, refined and elegant intercourse according to the standards of that day, and the criticisms offered by the members had a certain influence on the manners and literature of the epoch....
There is a certain charm in correct speech, a certain beauty in correct conversation. And it is well worth striving for.
COURTESY IN CONVERSATION
Courtesy is the very foundation of all good conversation. Good speech consists as much in listening politely as in talking agreeably. Someone has said, very wisely, "A talker who monopolizes the conversation is by common consent insufferable, and a man who regulates his choice of topics by reference to what interests not his hearers but himself has yet to learn the alphabet of the art." To be agreeable in conversation, one must first learn the law of talking just enough, of listening politely while others speak, and of speaking of that in which one's companions are most interested....
One should never interrupt unless there is a good reason for it and then it should be done with apologies. It is not courteous to ask a great many questions and personal ones are always taboo. One should be careful not to use over and over and over again the same words and phrases and one should not fall in the habit of asking people to repeat their remarks. Argument should be avoided and contradicting is always discourteous. When it seems that a heated disagreement is about to ensue it is wise tactfully to direct the conversation into other channels as soon as it can be done without too abrupt a turn, for to jerk the talk from one topic to another for the obvious purpose of "switching someone off the track" is in itself very rude.
Let your proverb be, "Talk well, but not too much."
Conversation should be lively without noise. It is not well-bred to be demonstrative in action while speaking, to talk loudly, or to laugh boisterously. Conversation should have less emphasis, and more quietness, more dignified calmness. Some of us are so eager, in our determination to be agreeable in conversation, to dominate the entire room with our voice, that we forget the laws of good conduct. And we wonder why people consider us bores....
Another mistake to avoid is rapid speaking. To talk slowly and deliberately, is to enhance the pleasure and beauty of the conversation. Rapidity in speech results in indistinctness, and indistinctness leads invariably to monotony.
INTERRUPTING THE SPEECH OF OTHERS
How often, here in our own country, even in the most highly cultivated society, do we hear a man or woman carelessly interrupt the conversation of another, perhaps an older person, without so much as an apology! It is bad form, to say the least, but it is also distinctly rude. No person of good breeding will interrupt the conversation of another no matter how startling and remarkable an idea he may have. It will be just as startling and remarkable a few minutes later, and the speaker will have gained poise and confidence in the time that he waits for the chance to speak.
Whispering in company is another bad habit that must be avoided. The drawing-room or reception room is no place for personal secrets or hidden bits of gossip. The man or woman commits a serious breach in good conduct by drawing one or two persons aside and whispering something to them....
If you are forgetful, and somewhat shy in the company of others, it might be well to jot down and commit to memory any interesting bit of information or news that you feel would be worthy of repetition. It may be an interesting little story, or a clever repartee, or some amusing incident-but whatever it is, make the appeal general. It is a mistake to talk only about those things that interest you; when Matthew Arnold was once asked what his favorite topic for conversation was, he answered, "That in which my companion is most interested."
Make that your ideal, and you can hardly help becoming an agreeable and pleasing conversationalist.