Wait no longer my friends! This month's post focuses on Cicero’s rules for good conversation which are still quite helpful to us in our modern lives. In de Officiis (On Duty), written in 44 B.C. E., Cicero wrote “There are rules for oratory laid down by rhetoricians; there are none for conversation; and yet I do not know why there should not be.” To remedy this situation, Cicero elaborated on 7 rules that he believed should govern good conversation:
1. A Well-mannered Person Should Not be too Verbose and Should Let Others Speak
Giving other people their turn is courteous as Cicero points out. Listening well, however, goes beyond courtesy. Listening well to others isn’t always a skill that comes naturally to us, I find. Often, we aren’t really listening to the other person so much as thinking about what we will say in response. It is often better to sincerely listen to the other person’s concerns.
2. Show Gravity During Serious Conversations and Amusement With Humorous Topics
3. Don’t Let a Conversation Reveal Your Character Flaws: Don’t Gossip!
4. Topics Should Focus on Private Affairs, Politics and the Theory and Practice of the Arts
5. Don’t Talk About Subjects Not of Interest to Others
That said, in order to find common ground with people who you don’t know well, it is important to go out on a limb and bring up various topics. Just don’t keep talking about them if the other person doesn’t seem interested.
6. Learn How to End Conversations Tactfully
7. Never Lose Your Temper or Speak in Anger
Above all, Cicero thought that the art of conversation is a skill that can be mastered with practice. Cheerfulness, politeness and sticking to Cicero’ rules can go a long way towards having great conversations!
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