March 10, 2009

Information and improvement

This conversation improved and entertained both participants (although the one on the right has since shuffled off this mortal coil).

Goat Rope has recently been spending time in the company of Benjamin Franklin. Well, actually with his autobiography, but you get the idea.

Franklin achieved remarkable success in many of his endeavors thanks in no small measure to his skill in dealing with other people. As noted in yesterday's post, he made it a habit to avoid not only arguing with and directly contradicting others but also to state his own views in a modest and unassuming way.

If, as he believed, conversation is about informing others and being informed in turn and pleasing and being pleased by others, then stating opinions in a dogmatic way tends to shut things down. He said,

For, if you wish to inform, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may provoke contradiction and prevent a candid attention. If you wish information and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at the same time express yourself as firmly fix'd in your present opinions, modes, sensible men, who do not love disputation, will probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error. And by such a manner, you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in pleasing your hearers, or to persuade those whose concurrence you desire. Pope says, judiciously:

Men should be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown propos'd as things forgot...

Many years before Franklin, Lao Tzu put it like this:

A good soldier is not violent.
A good fighter is not angry.
A good winner is not vengeful.
A good employer is humble.
This is known as the Virtue of not striving.
This is known as ability to deal with people.
This since ancient times has been known
as the ultimate unity with heaven.

GOT THE DIPLOMA. NOW WHAT? This isn't the best of years, economically speaking, to graduate from college.

HUNGRY COUNTRY. The nation's food banks may need a bailout if things continue as

DREAM ON. Research suggests that people interpret their dreams selectively.

RELIGION ON THE BRAIN. Adaptation or accident?

A LITTLE GOOD NEWS. Blenko Glass plans to resume limited production after closing earlier this year.


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