Making Oneself a Disagreeable Companion

RULES, by the Observation of which a Man of Wit and Learning may nonetheless make himself a disagreeable Companion.

Your Business is to shine, therefore you must by all means prevent the shining of others, for their Brightness may make yours the less distinguished. To this End:

  1. If possible engross the whole Discourse; and when other Matter fails, talk much of yourself, your Education, your Knowledge, your Circumstances, your Successes in Business, your Victories in Disputes, your own wise Sayings and Observations on particular Occasions, &c. &c. &c.
  2. If when you are out of Breath, one of the Company should seize the Opportunity of saying something; watch his Words, and, if possible, find somewhat either in his Sentiment or Expression, immediately to contradict and raise a Dispute upon. Rather than fail, criticise even his Grammar.
  3. If another should be saying an indisputably good Thing; either give no Attention to it; or interrupt him; or draw away the Attention of others; or, if you can guess what he would be at, be quick and say it before him; or, if he gets it said, and you perceive the Company pleased with it, own it to be a good Thing, and withal remark that it had been said by Bacon, Locke, Bayle, or some other eminent Writer; thus you deprive him of the Reputation he might have gained by it, and gain some yourself, as you hereby show your great Reading and Memory.
  4. When modest Men have been thus treated by you a few times, they will choose ever after to be silent in your Company; then you may shine on without Fear of a Rival; rallying them at the same time for their Dullness, which will be to you a new Fund of Wit.

Thus you will be sure to please yourself. The polite Man aims at pleasing others, but you shall go beyond him even in that. A Man can be present only in one Company, but may at the same time be absent in twenty. He can please only where he is, you wherever you are not.

Benjamin Franklin
1750

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4 Comments

  1. This quote by Benjamin Franklin puzzled me. It sounds like he’s talking about narcissism. This sounds like what they would do which is taking the shine from others so they can be the center of attention. I detest the narcissist but at the same time I understand the attraction they have on others. Their confidence and boldness appears valuable but upon closer inspection it is insecurity and a predatory mindset. A predator feeds on the vulnerability of others. A strong person does not. A strong person feeds on the strength of others. When they shine, he shines.

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    • It was utter satire. It came from a book I bought years ago full of stuff like this that Franklin wrote. The name of the book: Fart Proudly. Yes, he wrote a paper about that too. Laugh.

      I share this to show that Franklin was at least as big a nut as we are, and that behavior like this was understood to be just as rude and self-aggrandizing then as it is today.

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  2. Reminds me of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” where one may not be quite sure if what one is reading is truly satire or sincere advice. Until, of course, the author is revealed.

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    • That is a great reminder, Thomas. I first read The Prince as a young man. “WTF?” I remember thinking now, “Is this guy for real?” By the end I finally understood what it meant to be Machiavellian. Proves why suck-asses are so dangerous.

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