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Tag Archives: society

Jane Austen’s Principles of Good Conversation

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Jane Austen as painted by her sister, Cassandra

Jane Austen as painted by her sister, Cassandra

In the novels of Jane Austen, being able to carry on a pleasant conversation is a mark of a virtuous character. (Although not a sufficient one—the villainous Misters Willoughby and Wickham are enchanting conversationalists.) But most of the best conversations in her novels—and in our own, twenty-first century lives—assume the same six principles, all of which stem from intelligence and thoughtfulness. By following these principles we not only make conversations more enjoyable, we can also become better, wiser people. Read the rest of this entry

Why Everyday Politeness Is One of the Best Gifts of All, Part One

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Allegory of Virtue by Simon Vouet
During the Month of Self-Giving, I’ve put a lot of thought into the gifts that really matter–the acts of sacrifice that really change us.

For example, when I give make my husband an elaborate brunch (one of his favorite treats), I often expect some relaxation time in return. Even though I’ve worked hard and given him something he really enjoys, I haven’t really made myself more generous spirited. How do I go from doing something generous to being a generous person, who makes sacrifices for others without thinking about them and without feeling self-righteous or resentful?

I want to strengthen the virtue of generosity within myself. Read the rest of this entry

The 5 Gifts He Actually Wants

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A Favor by Edmund LeightonSelf-sacrifice isn’t easy, especially because a giving attitude is only half the battle. It doesn’t matter how much we want to give if we can’t identify what to give and when to give it.

As part of my recovery from depression, Adam and I sat down and made of the sacrifices he would like me to make. (At my most depressed, I was making many unnecessary sacrifices for him because I thought my needs were unimportant.) We came up with a list of five real needs that I can meet by giving something up–whether it’s time, privacy, or control. That way a sacrifice is a selfless gesture oriented around his needs, instead of a self-centered gesture focused on my thoughts and feelings. Read the rest of this entry

How the Wisdom of French Parenting Is Changing My Life

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French Peasants Finding Their Stolen Child by Philip Hermogenes CalderonEven at one and a half, Thomas is his own person. And he’ll make sure you know it, too. He has to try everything for himself first, before he’ll let anyone help him. (When given the chance, he tries to change his own diaper by putting on a new one over his pants.) He wants to do everything Adam and I do, down to cleaning and cooking. And he wants to make choices for himself.

While it’s wonderful getting to know our son a little better every day, this willfulness was taking its toll. We wondered, “Where is the line between helping Thomas and enabling his bad behavior?”—and “Are we turning our child into a spoiled brat?” Read the rest of this entry

10 Things Every Young Woman Should Know How to Do before She Heads Out on Her Own

The pressure is on for students to get into good colleges and good jobs, so parents and teachers tend to focus on academics. As a result, many people graduate with a lot of book learning—but practically no idea how to take care of themselves. For all women, and for marriage-minded women especially, picking up a few basic skill sets is a matter of urgency in the first weeks and months away from home. Read the rest of this entry

“The Female of the Species Is More Deadly Than the Male”

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Some have called Rudyard Kipling’s poem sexist, but I think “The Female of the Species Is More Deadly Than the Male” celebrates some of the greatest gifts biology gave me as a woman.

Women have that great power, not just because we are necessary for bearing and raising children, but also because we are the ones responsible for defending the family. And I’m proud to be the member of a sex that I have observed, time and again, look for practical solutions to keep our families fed, warm, and safe where men look for abstract principals. Read the rest of this entry

5 Easy Fixes to Sound More Refined

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In George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and the classic film My Fair Lady, Dr. Henry Higgins takes a common flower girl and turns her into a lady by teaching her how to speak more refined English. He knew that other people draw certain conclusions from the way we talk, whether they are fair or not.
No one needs to be refined all the time, but knowing how to sound when you want your voice to be heard can be a powerful tool for any woman. Follow these five simple suggestions for more sophisticated speech. Read the rest of this entry