Collected Maxims and Other Reflections

One of the reasons why so few people seem reasonable and attractive in conversation is that almost everyone thinks more about what he himself wants to say than about answering exactly what is said to him. The cleverest and most polite people are content merely to look attentive––while all the time we see in their eyes and minds a distraction from what is being said to them, and an impatience to get back to what they themselves want to say. Instead, they should reflect that striving so hard to please themselves is a poor way to please or convince other people, and that the ability to listen well and answer well is one of the greatest merits we can have in conversation.

-La Rochefoucauld

 

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