Right now, assume a character and a way of behaving that you can follow
consistently both when alone and when with others.
- Keep silent as much as possible, saying only what you must say, and that
briefly. Join a conversation when the occasion requires it, but not on the
common subjects of sports, entertainment or dining; and especially not about
persons, allotting them blame or praise or comparing them. If you can bring
such a conversation around to better topics, fine, but if you’re among
strangers, keep quiet.
- Keep your laughter moderate and infrequent.
- As much as possible, avoid swearing oaths.
- Don’t party with the unenlightened. If you do find yourself in such a
situation, be alert that you don’t slip into the manners of the uninformed.
Hang out with dogs, and you’re likely to get fleas.
- Keep to the basics in bodily things: food, drink, clothing, residence and
conveniences. Eliminate everything that’s only for show or luxury.
- As for sex: abstain, if possible, outside marriage. If you do not abstain,
take care to remain honorable and self- respecting. Don’t be unpleasant,
though, to others who are more self-indulgent, or try to correct them. And
don’t boast about your own absolute (or relative) chastity.
- If you hear that someone has criticized you, don’t try to defend yourself,
but say instead: “He doesn’t know all my faults, or he would have had more to
- Rarely attend sporting events, but when you do attend, don’t be anyone’s fan
but your own. Just wish for things to go as they go, and for the winner to be
just whatever person or team wins. Don’t yell; don’t get yourself worked up.
Afterward, don’t dwell on what you’ve seen, unless it offers something for
the development of your character. If you talk too much about the event, it
will be apparent that you paid it too much attention.
- Keep away from lectures, but if you do go, keep your manner composed, without
- When you’re going to meet someone, particularly the exalted, ask yourself
what Socrates or Zeno would have done in your place, and you’ll have no
trouble making good use of the situation.
- When your quarry is someone very powerful, keep in mind the possibilities
that the person won’t be in, that you won’t be allowed in, and that the great
personage won’t be interested in what you say. If you still have good reason
to go, then go, and accept whatever happens, never saying to yourself, “It
wasn’t worth the trouble.” That is the vulgar attitude of someone who’s upset
- Minimize your recounting of your own adventures and hazards. They’re not
nearly as entertaining to others as they are to you.
- Don’t try to make others laugh. Vulgarity follows too readily.
- Foul talk is also to be avoided. Correct others who use it, if there’s a
suitable opportunity. Otherwise, simply show your disapproval by your silence
and your expression.