Gracian on social mastery

Some things never change, like needing some degree of social grace in order to succeed. In the 1600s, Baltasar Gracian published The Art of Worldly Wisdom, which included social tips that are still remarkably relevant and useful today. Apparently, the more society has changed, the more it has stayed the same.

Below are selected aphorisms from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (Maurer translation) along with similar ones that I have heard and any thoughts I had. Their beauty lies in being easy to learn but hard to master.

7 – Don’t outshine your boss – Being defeated is hateful, and besting one’s boss is either foolish or fatal…When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, not of the light he was unable to see.

19 – When you start something, don’t raise other people’s expectations – What is highly praised seldom measures up to expectation.

26 – Find each person’s “handle,” his weak point

117 – Don’t talk about yourself – You must either praise yourself, which is vanity, or criticize yourself, which is meekness.

Thoughts: Apparently this doesn’t apply much in the world of mass media, but it’s still useful advice in other, smaller settings.

124 – Make yourself wanted

126 – The fool isn’t someone who does something foolish, but the one who doesn’t know how to conceal it

129 – Never complain – Complaints will always discredit you…It is a better policy to praise the favors others have done you, so as to win still more of them…Thus will [you] have friends and halve [your] enemies.

Related: see 188

135 – Don’t have the spirit of contradiction – Finding objections to everything can be ingenious, but the stubborn person is almost always a fool.

Thoughts: It’s always easier to destroy than to create. A contrarian is a drain, contributing nothing of value to society. He is simply the antithesis of the creator, without whom he is nothing.

147 – Don’t be inaccessible – No one is so perfect as not to need occasional counsel. The person who doesn’t listen is a hopeless fool…We all need a friend who feels free to scold us and give us advice…we need the faithful mirror of a confident. If we value that mirror, it will set us free from deceit.

173 – Don’t be made of glass in your dealings with others

188 – Find something to praise – This will acccredit your taste and tell others that you formed it on excellent things, making them hope for your esteem.

Related: See 129

205 – Learn to use scorn – Unworthy people cunningly oppose the great: they try to win fame indirectly, without really deserving it. Many people would be unknown if their excellent opponents had paid them no heed.

217 – Neither love nor hate forever

Thoughts: Things change, and it is wise to adapt. Friends can become enemies, and enemies allies.

273 – Understand the characters of the people you are dealing with

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