Lucille Ball

Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!

Some things never change, doll. Take, for example, the chit-chat pointers in the old manners guide, Martine’s Handbook of Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness. Originally published in 1866, this printed treasure contains conversation tips that are as helpful, relevant and timely today as they ever were. Here are our 10 favorites with quotes about each from the original Miss Manners himself, Mister Martine.

1. Know your guests. “If he is a gentleman, he starts no subject of conversation that can possibly be displeasing to any person present. The ground is common to all, and no one has a right to monopolize any part of it for his own particular opinions.”

2. Be generous when choosing discussion topics. If you would render yourself pleasing in social parties, never speak to gratify any particular vanity or passion of your own, but always aim to interest or amuse others by themes which you know are in accordance with their tastes and understandings.”

Mad Men

Scene from Mad Men

3. Involve others readily in your conversations. “If upon the entrance of a visitor you continue a conversation begun before, you should always explain the subject to the newcomer.”

4. Don’t prattle on. “Do not endeavor to shine in all companies. Leave room for your hearers to imagine something within you beyond all you have said.”

5. Never make jokes at the expense of others. “Malicious jests at the expense of those who are present or absent show that he who uses them is devoid of both the instincts and habits of a true gentleman.”

Blue Jasmine

Scene from Blue Jasmine

6. Help others look good. “If you are really a wit, remember that in conversation, its true office consists more in finding it in others than showing off a great deal of it yourself. He who goes out of your company pleased with himself is sure to be pleased with you.”

7. Let mistakes slide. “You will forbear to interrupt a person who is telling a story, even though he is making historical mistakes in dates and facts. If he makes mistakes, it is his own fault, and it is not your business to mortify him by attempting to correct his blunders in presence of those with whom he is ambitious to stand well.”

8. Don’t finish others’ sentences. “Do not anticipate the point of a story which another person is reciting, or take it from his lips to finish it in your own language.”

9. Don’t correct a conversation partner’s grammar. “Never notice it if others make mistakes in language. To notice by word or look such errors in those around you is excessively ill-bred.”

Downton Abbey

Scene from Downton Abbey

10. Listen actively. The silence that, without any deferential air, listens with polite attention, is more flattering than compliments, and more frequently broken for the purpose of encouraging others to speak, than to display the listener’s own powers. This is the really eloquent silence. It requires great genius—more perhaps than speaking—and few are gifted with the talent.”

Intro photo: Lucille Ball
Intro quote: The Jazz Singer, 1927

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