Print this post Print this post

The Art of Conversation

François de La Rochefoucauld

620 words

Translated by Guillaume Durocher

Translator’s Note: François de La Rochefoucauld was a seventeenth-century French nobleman, an opponent of royal autocracy, and a noted author of maxims and essays. The title is editorial. Source: François de La Rochefoucauld, Maximes et Réflexions diverses (Paris: Gallimard, 1976 [1665]), “De la Conversation,” pp. 169-171.

The reason that so few people are pleasant in conversation is that everyone is more concerned about what he wants to say than about what others are saying. You must listen to those who are speaking if you wish to be listened to. You must leave them the opportunity to make themselves understood, and even to say useless things. Instead of contradicting or interrupting them, as is often done, you must, on the contrary, enter into their mind and their tastes, show that you understand them, talk to them about what they care about, praise what they say as much as it deserves to be, and show you praise them more by choice than by eagerness to please. You should avoid contradicting them on unimportant matters, ask useless questions rarely, never let it appear that you claim to be right over others, and gracefully concede the right to decide [who is right].

You must say natural, easy, and more or less serious things, according to the mood and the inclination of the people you are speaking with. You should not press them to approve of what you say, nor even to respond to it. When you have fulfilled this kind of courteous duty, you can share your sentiments, without prejudice or stubbornness, letting it appear that you are seeking support for them from your listeners’ opinions.

You must avoid speaking at length about yourself or setting yourself often as an example. You cannot work enough to learn the tendencies and ends[1] of those with whom you are speaking, to add your thoughts to theirs, and make them believe, as much as possible, that you are getting your ideas from them. There is skill in not exhausting the subjects you discuss and in always leaving others something to think and to say.

You must never speak with an air of authority, nor use words and terms grander than the things [being discussed]. You can keep your opinions, if they are reasonable. But in keeping them, you must never hurt others’ feelings, nor appear shocked by what they say. It is dangerous to always want to be the master of the conversation and to speak about the same thing. You must be equally capable of engaging in all agreeable topics which present themselves, and never let it appear that you want to lead the conversation on to something you want to say.

One should note that not every kind of conversation, as honest and as witty as it might be, is equally appropriate for honest folk: one must choose what is appropriate to say to each person and even choose the [right] timing. But if there is much skill in speaking, there is no less in remaining silent. There is an eloquent silence, which sometimes serves to approve or to condemn. There is a mocking silence. There is a respectful silence. There are airs, turns of phrase, and manners which often make for what is pleasant or unpleasant, delicate or shocking in a conversation. The secret to using this well is given to few people. Even those who make the rules sometimes misjudge the situation. The safest, in my opinion, is to have no [rules] which you cannot change, and to appear nonchalant in what you say rather than affected; to listen, to not speak much, and to never force yourself to speak.

Note

[1] My tentative rendition of pente et portée, literally “slope and range.”

4 Comments

  1. Right_On
    Posted March 4, 2019 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    I really appreciated those maxims. Keep them coming please.

    Here’s another acute insight from our nobleman : “Our virtues are often, in reality, no better than vices disguised.”

    • Guillaume Durocher
      Posted March 5, 2019 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      You’re welcome!

  2. Benjamin
    Posted March 4, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this.

    Everyone on the dissident-right should share this in every dissident-right group they’re apart of.

    Right wingers are prone to purity spiraling, and the far-right is far more prone to this than the center-right.

    It’s so incredibly frustrating when you post a reply to someone, agree with 90% of what they say, only for them to sperg out on you or become hostile because you weren’t lockstep with them on every single point.

    • Guillaume Durocher
      Posted March 5, 2019 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      I’m afraid I have to agree..

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.
 
Comments are moderated. If you don't see your comment, please be patient. If approved, it will appear here soon. Do not post your comment a second time.
 
Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*
*

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Kindle Subscription
  • Our Titles

    The Alternative Right

    My Nationalist Pony

    The White Nationalist Manifesto

    Dark Right: Batman Viewed From the Right

    The Philatelist

    Novel Folklore

    Confessions of an Anti-Feminist

    East and West

    Though We Be Dead, Yet Our Day Will Come

    White Like You

    The Homo and the Negro, Second Edition

    Numinous Machines

    The World in Flames

    Venus and Her Thugs

    Cynosura

    North American New Right, vol. 2

    You Asked For It

    More Artists of the Right

    Extremists: Studies in Metapolitics

    Rising

    The Importance of James Bond

    In Defense of Prejudice

    Confessions of a Reluctant Hater (2nd ed.)

    The Hypocrisies of Heaven

    Waking Up from the American Dream

    Green Nazis in Space!

    Truth, Justice, and a Nice White Country

    Heidegger in Chicago

    The End of an Era

    Sexual Utopia in Power

    What is a Rune? & Other Essays

    Son of Trevor Lynch's White Nationalist Guide to the Movies

    The Lightning & the Sun

    The Eldritch Evola

    Western Civilization Bites Back

    New Right vs. Old Right

    Lost Violent Souls

    Journey Late at Night: Poems and Translations

    The Non-Hindu Indians & Indian Unity

    Baader Meinhof ceramic pistol, Charles Kraaft 2013

    Jonathan Bowden as Dirty Harry

    The Lost Philosopher, Second Expanded Edition

    Trevor Lynch's A White Nationalist Guide to the Movies

    And Time Rolls On

    The Homo & the Negro

    Artists of the Right

    North American New Right, Vol. 1

    Forever and Ever

    Some Thoughts on Hitler

    Tikkun Olam and Other Poems

    Under the Nihil

    Summoning the Gods

    Hold Back This Day

    The Columbine Pilgrim

    Confessions of a Reluctant Hater

    Taking Our Own Side

    Toward the White Republic

    Distributed Titles

    Reuben

    The Node

    A Sky Without Eagles

    The Way of Men

    The New Austerities

    Morning Crafts

    The Passing of a Profit & Other Forgotten Stories

    Asatru: A Native European Spirituality

    The Lost Philosopher

    Impeachment of Man

    Gold in the Furnace

    Defiance