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George Washington’s rules when in company and conversation – first ever networking tips?

February 21, 2012

Bristol Networking Events Invitations here

Reading these today for the first time and you realise that they could and should apply to our everyday goings on – and when it comes to networking – this must be the first and definitive guide to networking ever written!

The rules have in common a focus on other people rather than the narrow focus of our own self-interests that we find so prevalent today. Fussy or not, they represent more than just manners. They are the small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make for the good of all and the sake of living together.

Today many, if not all of these rules, sound a little fussy if not downright silly. It would be easy to dismiss them as outdated and appropriate to a time of powdered wigs and quills, but they reflect a focus that is increasingly difficult to find

These rules proclaim our respect for others and in turn give us the gift of self-respect and heightened self-esteem.

By age sixteen, Washington had copied out by hand, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. They are based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. Presumably they were copied out as part of an exercise in penmanship assigned by young Washington’s schoolmaster. The first English translation of the French rules appeared in 1640, and are ascribed to Francis Hawkins the twelve-year-old son of a doctor.

Some examples

The first one

 1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present

On conversations

12th Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs roll not the Eyes lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.
14th Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
58th Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for ‘is a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: 
83rd When you deliver a matter do it without Passion & with Discretion, however mean the Person be you do it too.
88th Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressions, nor repeat often the Same manner of Discourse.

On food and drink

97th Put not another bit into your mouth till the former be swallowed. Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls.
98th Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you while you are drinking.
99th Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after drinking, wipe your lips; breath not then or ever with too great a noise, for its uncivil.

The last one

110th Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

For the full 110

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