Comparing Affluent Conversation Rules of Today to 1875

Comparing Affluent Conversation Rules of Today to 1875

If you want to differentiate yourself in affluent social circles, paying attention to these 10 Affluent Conversation Rules is an excellent place to start.

What’s new regarding conversing with today’s affluent?  Not much.  The following rules have been excerpted from the first chapter of a book published in 1875: A Gentleman’s Guide to Etiquette by Cecil B. Hartley.  Fast forward 141 years and this title would be gender neutral, maybe along the lines of “A Professionals Guide…”  That said, Hartley’s rules, especially with regard to conversation, are as true today and desperately in need of being followed, as they were in the 19th Century.

I’ve retained Hartley’s exact words in each of these excerpts and, just for fun, offered a comparison to the communication habits of our current Presidential candidates…

  1. Speak of yourself but little. Your friends will find out your virtues without forcing you to tell them, and you may feel confident that it is equally unnecessary to expose your faults yourself.

Today’s Politicians…are unabashed self-promoters, talking at every opportunity of their skills and qualifications.

  1. Avoid pedantry; it is a mark, not of intelligence, but stupidity.

Today’s Politicians…can turn a simple question into a ten-minute monologue.

  1. Avoid boasting.  To speak of your money, connections, or the luxuries at your command is in very bad taste.

Today’s Politicians…avoid this one – they don’t want to be seen as part of “the 1%.”  

  1. One of the first rules for a guide in polite conversation is to avoid political or religious discussions in general society.

Today’s Politicians…act as if their political and spiritual views are completely superior to others – there’s only one “right” way.

  1. The commonest thought well put is more useful in a social point of view, than the most brilliant idea jumbled out.

Today’s Politicians…act as if common thinking is out. Brilliant out-of-box fantasies – totally disconnected from reality - are the rage.

  1. A man (woman) of real intelligence and cultivated mind is generally modest.

Today’s Politicians…embellish (or manufacture) past accomplishments.

  1. The great charm of conversation consists less in the display of one’s own wit and intelligence, than the power to draw forth the resources of others.

Today’s Politicians…are always the center of attention – rarely giving credit to others in their successes.

  1. To be a good listener is as indispensable as to be a good talker, and it is in the character of listener that you can most readily detect the man (woman) who is accustomed to good society.

Today’s Politicians…think listening is for lightweights who have nothing to say.

  1. Never, unless you are requested to do so, speak of your own business or profession in society.

Today’s Politicians…rarely have any business experience.

  1. Never interrupt anyone who is speaking.

Today’s Politicians…interrupt anytime their opponent makes a solid argument.

To be fair, it’s rare to find people who actually apply the conversational gems I’ve listed.  It’s even more of a rarity to find these traits in politicians.  So remember, invert most of the communication traits you’re seeing from these politicians.    

If you want to differentiate yourself in affluent social circles, paying attention to these 10 Affluent Conversation Rules is an excellent place to start.


Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.

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