Conceit is just as natural a thing to human minds as a centre is to a circle. But little-minded people’s thoughts move in such small circles that five minute’s’ conversation gives you an arc long enough to determine their whole curve. An arc in the movement of a large intellect does not differ sensibly from a straight line.
Moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of what is good and evil in the conversation and society of mankind. God and evil are names that signify our appetites and aversions, which in different tempers, customs and doctrines of men are different.
Praise, flattery, exaggerated manners, and fine, high-sounding words were no part of Lakota politeness. Excessive manners were put down as insincere, and the constant talker was considered rude and thoughtless. Conversation was never begun at once, or in a hurried manner. No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation.
Debt haunts the mind; a conversation about justice troubles it; the sight of a creditor fills it with confusion; even the sanctuary is not a place of refuge. The borrower is servant to the lender. Independence, so essential to the virtues and pleasures of a man, can only be maintained by setting bounds to our desires and owing no man anything.
The great secret of succeeding in conversation is to admire little, hear much, always to distrust our own reason, and sometimes that of our friends; never to pretend to wit, but to make that of others appear as much as we possibly can; to hearken to what is said, and to answer to the purpose.
I've noticed two things about men who get big salaries. They are almost invariably men who, in conversation or in conference, are adaptable. They quickly get the other fellow's view. They are more eager to do this than to express their own ideas. Also, they state their own point of view convincingly.
Among well-bred people a mutual deference is affected, contempt of others is disguised; authority concealed; attention given to each in his turn; and an easy stream of conversation maintained without vehemence, without interruption, without eagerness for victory, and without any airs of superiority.