Blessed Cardinal Newman defines the conduct of a gentleman as the good judgment of avoiding inappropriate subjects or provoking unproductive arguments: “He guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome.”Share
The gentleman avoids confrontations in social situations and “shrinks from what are called scenes” to make the occasion pleasant and harmonious for all in attendance, and in his choice of words “he is one who never inflicts pain,” always conscious of the obligation never to “cause a jar or jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast” by some insensitive comment or reference to some embarrassment in the past.
The art of living, then, recognizes the power, grace, and beauty of words to do good, to win hearts, and to civilize human life. Like music, art, and beauty, words too adorn, ennoble, and enrich human existence. Proper forms of address, appreciative compliments, cheerful conversation, and good taste in the choice of words and remarks make a world of difference and have surprising effects.
What Austen calls “delicacy” and Cardinal Newman “fastidiousness” mean a keen sense of discrimination between casual language and appropriate diction, saying too much or saying too little, speaking to please others and to take an interest in them or talking to boast of oneself and be the center of attention, using words to bring music to the heart or to sow discord and foment arguments. (Read more.)