On the island of Barbados, there is a historic landmark worth visiting, where a 19 year-old George Washington stayed for two months – the only location outside of the United States he ever visited. Our First President has always been of admirable quality to me.
When he was just 16 years old, Washington had already written his “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Today you might think his words are outdated, even obsolete. I argue that in fact, we would do well as a society to read and perhaps better understand the words that are as applicable to 2018 as they were in 1748.
I present: George Washington’s Rules of Civility in the common tongue.
Everything you do around other people ought to be accompanied by some sign of respect to those around you.
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When you’re with other people, don’t put your hands on private areas of your body.
Don’t show things to your companions that might scare or concern them.
When you’re around others, don’t annoy them by singing or humming to yourself, and don’t drum your fingers or feet.
If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn don’t do it loudly so others can hear you. And instead of talking through a yawn, turn your head to the side and cover your mouth with a handkerchief or your hand.
Don’t sleep while others are talking, don’t sit if others are standing, and don’t speak when you should be quiet. If the people you’re walking with stop, wait for them before continuing.
Don’t take your clothes off while other people are around, and don’t go out and about outside your bedroom half-dressed.
Whenever there’s a latecomer, it’s polite to give them a place. Don’t talk louder than everyone around you.
When you’re seated, don’t shift your body around a lot, and don’t gnaw on your nails.
Don’t shake your head or feet, roll your eyes, raise your eyebrows, purse your lips, or make your spit hit others because you’re too close to them while you’re talking!
If you see anything gross or dirty on your companions, tell them privately. Don’t deal with it publicly, and if anyone does the same to you thank them for telling you.
Don’t ever turn your back on someone else who is speaking. Don’t jostle the desk or table that they’re writing on and don’t lean on other people.
Keep your nails clean and short, and also your teeth, but do your grooming privately.
Don’t flatter others, and don’t tease anyone who does not enjoy being teased.
When you’re in the company of others, don’t read letters, books, or papers (or your phone) unless you have to, and if you do have to, ask them to excuse you while you remove yourself to do so privately. And if anyone else is reading or writing, don’t come up behind them and try to read it unless they ask you to do so.
Always have a pleasant countenance, unless serious matters require a more grave face.
Make sure that your hand gestures are suited to the conversation you’re involved.
Don’t make fun of or berate other people for having natural infirmities, and don’t be glad to see them pointed out by someone else.
When misfortune falls another, even if they’re your enemy, don’t show happiness about it.
When you see crimes punished, you may be inwardly pleased at the justice, but always show the suffering offender pity.
Do not laugh too loudly or make a public spectacle of yourself.
Excessive and unnecessary complements and ceremonious pretentiousness should be avoided, but if they’re due someone (like veterans or the President), they should not be neglected.
When you show respect to people of distinction, just as police officers, judges, veterans, pastors, and people who are older than you, you’re showing that you have been raised with good manners. Don’t assume that others will do the same to you, and always try to be the first one to offer respect. It’s bad manners to demand someone else treat you as well as you treat them.
If anyone comes to speak to you while you’re sitting down, stand up to greet them.
When you see that you’re approaching someone, particularly someone due more respect than yourself, move out of their way and let them pass, particularly if at a doorway.
If you’re offering someone a place to stay, don’t push them to accept it more than once or twice.
If you do give someone a place to stay, make sure it’s the best place you have to give.
Even if you’re in a place of dignity or office, while you’re young you should respect others who are equal to you even if they don’t have such a title.
It is good manners to let others speak before us, and give them deference.
Let your business conversations be short and concise.
Treat anyone who is of high degree with honor, and anyone with high degree should treat those not as fortunate with courtesy and not arrogance.
When you’re visiting someone who is sick, don’t act like you’re the doctor.
When you’re writing or speaking, give to each person their due respect based on their title or achievements.
Don’t argue with people who are older than you and due more respect, but state your opinions modestly.
Don’t take it upon yourself to teach people their professed skills, it smells of arrogance.
Treat everyone the way it’s proper for them to be treated. It is absurd to act the same with a clown and a prince.
Don’t be exuberantly happy around people who are sick or in pain, for the contrary feelings could aggravate their misery.
When a person does everything he can, even if it doesn’t go well, don’t blame them for things not working out.
If you give advice or criticize anyone, consider whether it should be done publicly or in private, now or at a better time later. And when criticizing, make sure you don’t do it angrily, but sweetly and with mildness.
Take any admonitions or criticism you receive thankfully, no matter when or where and take the time to thank the person who gave it, even if at a later time.
Important things should not be joked about or laughed at, and if you deliver a witty statement don’t laugh at it yourself.
Where you criticize someone else, make sure you’re not guilty of the same thing.
Don’t use disgraceful language against others, and don’t curse at them or abusively or angrily insult them.
Don’t be hasty in believing reports that speak badly of others.
Don’t wear dirty, ripped, or smelly clothes, and make sure you’re clean all time.
Make sure your clothing is modest, orderly, and accommodating to nature, rather than following every trend.
Don’t run in crowded places, and don’t walk too slowly or with your mouth open.
Don’t act like a peacock, always looking around to see if you look good, or to see if anyone is watching you.
Don’t eat while you’re walking around.
Make friends with good quality people if you care about your reputation, because it is better to be alone than in bad company.
When people are talking to you while you’re walking, if they stop, stop with them. If they turn, turn with them so that they can easily keep talking with you.
Keep your conversation free of envy or malice, and whenever you’re passionately discussing something, make sure reason governs your words.
Never express anything that is unbecoming, nor act in a way that is against moral rules.
Don’t be rude by urging your friends to discover someone else’s secret.
Don’t talk about frivolous and low things among people who are grave and learned, and don’t discuss very difficult questions among people who are not well-versed in the subjects. Don’t overuse big words and try to appear better than people.
Don’t talk about sad or unhappy things when people are having a good time, nor while you’re at the dinner table. Don’t talk about death or wounds, and if others mention them try to change the conversation. Don’t talk about dreams to people who aren’t your closest friends.
A person ought not to value themselves because of their own achievements, rare qualities, riches, or virtues.
Don’t joke around if no one else is laughing, and don’t make fun of anyone else’s misfortune, even if there seems to be a reason for it.
Don’t speak hurtful or harmful words to anyone, even if you’re joking, and don’t make light of or belittle anyone else. Don’t taunt or ridicule anyone else, even if you’re “just kidding,” even if they seem to give you a reason to do so.
Don’t be flirtatious or overly familiar, but be friendly and courteous. Don’t be without words when it is your turn to converse.
Don’t detract from others, and don’t be excessively bossy.
Don’t go somewhere you’re not invited; give advice only when asked and if asked, do it briefly.
If two people argue with each other, don’t join in and take one person’s side; and don’t be stubborn in your opinion, if someone on the other side doesn’t agree.
Don’t reprimand other people for their imperfections. That’s the job of their parents or bosses.
Don’t stare at people’s blemishes or marks, and don’t ask how they came to be. Things you talk about with your best friend are not things you should talk about with general acquaintances.
When you’re around people, don’t speak in an unknown language but in the common language; don’t be vulgar. Treat spiritual matters seriously.
Think before you speak, don’t pronounce words incorrectly, don’t talk too fast and speak clearly.
When someone else is talking, be attentive and don’t disturb others listening, Don’t prompt him or help him if not desired; don’t interrupt and don’t answer until they’re finished speaking.
When you’re enter a room where people are discussing a topic, let them know it’s ok to keep talking; and if someone enters while you’re in the middle of a discussion, invite them to join in and repeat what has been said before they joined.
While you’re debating with someone, don’t point your finger at them, or get up in their face.
Talk about business matters with people at the right time, and don’t whisper about things in the company of others.
Don’t make comparisons, and if one person is being commended for something don’t commend another one for the same thing.
Don’t relate news if you don’t know their truth. When discussing things you’ve heard, don’t name the person who told you.
Don’t be tedious when you’re talking with others.
Don’t be curious to know other people’s business, and don’t approach people who speak privately with others.
Don’t take on something you can’t do, and be careful to always keep your promises.
When you confront someone about a problem, do it without passion and with discretion, no matter how rude or average the person is whom you must confront.
If someone who is above you speaks to someone else about a problem, don’t add your two cents or laugh.
In people who are deserving of great honor above yourself, don’t speak until you’re asked a question, and then humbly answer clearly and concisely.
In arguments, don’t be so concerned with winning that you don’t give the other the chance to speak their opinion. Submit your opinion to the judgment of a person in charge.
Carry yourself in a way that becomes a person who is settled and attentive to what is spoken. Don’t constantly contradict what other people say.
Don’t be tedious when debating a topic, don’t go off on a lot of rabbit trails, and don’t repeat the same thing over and over.
Don’t speak badly of people who are not present to defend themselves, it is not fair to them.
When you’re at the dinner table, don’t scratch, spit, cough, or blow your nose unless you absolutely must.
Don’t overly show enjoyment of your food, and don’t eat with greediness. Cut your food with a knife, and don’t lean on the table, and don’t find fault with what food has been set before you to eat.
If you’re entertaining anyone, make sure to offer them food.
Don’t soak more than a bite of bread in your sauce, and blow on your soup to cool it before you attempt to eat it.
Don’t put food in your mouth using your knife, and don’t spit anything out or throw it under the table.
Don’t lean over your food too much, and keep your fingers clean; use your napkin and not your clothes.
Don’t put a bit of food into your mouth until you’ve eaten the bite before it. Don’t let food cause your cheeks to bulge.
When you have food in your mouth, don’t talk with your mouth full or take a drink, and don’t look around the room while you’re drinking.
Don’t drink too slowly or too quickly. Before and after drinking, wipe your lips, and don’t make breathing or sighing noises, as it is uncivilized and rude.
Don’t clean your teeth with your napkin or utensils; but if someone else does it, don’t say anything.
Don’t rinse out your mouth in the presence of others.
It is not necessary to drink to someone every time you take a drink.
Don’t eat after your host’s have stopped, and don’t lay your arms on the table.
The host should be the first one to unfold their napkin and start to eat, but they should eat slowly enough that the slowest at the table is allowed time to finish.
Don’t be angry at the dinner table, no matter what happens and if you have a reason to be, don’t show it. Always have a cheerful face, especially if there are guests, because good humor makes one dish of food a feast.
Don’t put yourself at the head of the table automatically even if you’re the boss, but if the host invites you to sit there, don’t argue with them.
If others are talking at the table, be attentive, but still keep from talking with food in your mouth.
When you speak of God or His attributes, let it be seriously and with reverence. Honor your parents, even if they are imperfect.
Let your recreation be gallant, not sinful.
Work hard to keep alive in your heart that little spark of angelic fire that is called “your conscious.”
Brandon Vallorani is a practiced entrepreneur and accomplished CEO, author of The Wolves and the Mandolin (ForbesBooks; 2017), and third generation Italian-American.
Founder of a media conglomerate recognized on the Inc. 5000 for five consecutive years, Brandon sold to a colleague in the business, and has more recently shifted focus to his other entrepreneurial endeavors.
Vallorani graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, and began his career in the non-profit sector. He quickly rose through the ranks to become Executive Vice President in a few short years, simultaneously earning his Master of Business Administration from Thomas More College.
He lives in Metro-Atlanta, with his wife with whom he shares seven children, a son-in-law, and a grandson. In his free time, Brandon enjoys playing in casinos around the country, his three dogs, and learning Italian.