7 ancient tips to good behavior, straight from the sage Erasmus

7 ancient tips to good behavior, straight from the sage Erasmus and his compatriots, the esteemed Francis Bacon, Sydney Smith and Lord Chesterfield, as recommended by our resident happiness expert.

Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor
7 ancient tips to good behavior, straight from the sage Erasmus and his compatriots, the esteemed Francis Bacon, Sydney Smith and Lord Chesterfield, as recommended by our resident happiness expert. English roses outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

This Thursday: 8 tips for how to behave yourself, from sixteenth-century scholar Erasmus.

One thing is true about happiness: there are very few new truths out there. The greatest minds in history have turned their attention to the subject, so while it’s often challenging to put that wisdom into actual practice, it’s pretty clear what kinds of actions are likely to yield a happier life.

Likewise, “tips lists” have been around for a long time. I get a big kick out of uncovering tips lists from the past:  Sydney Smith’s tips for cheering yourself up from 1820, Francis Bacon’s tips for how to be happy from 1625, Lord Chesterfield’s tips for pleasing in society from 1774.

In De Civilitate Morum Puerilium Libellus: A Handbook on Good Manners for Children, Erasmus gave seven tips about how to behave yourself around other people. He wrote this list around 1500 A.D., and his advice has a long shelf life.

According to Erasmus, you should not …
1. gossip
2. tell unkind stories
3. boast
4. indulge in self-display
5. seek to defeat others in argument
6. interrupt people when they tell a story
7. be too inquisitive

What would you add to your own list? For myself, I need to add:

8. don’t “top” (meaning, don’t say things like, “Wow, you think that was bad, wait until you hear what happened to me”)

9. don’t keep bringing the conversation around to your favorite topics if other people don’t seem as obsessively interested in them as you are.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Gretchen Rubin blogs at The Happiness Project.

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