Chapter 59

  1. Affability

Affability is a real ornament, the most beautiful dress that man or woman can wear, and worth far more as a means of winning favor than the finest clothes and jewels ever were. The exercise of affability creates an instantaneous impression in your behalf, while the opposite quality excites as quick a prejudice against you. So true is this that were we asked to name any one quality which, aside from mere mental powers, contributed largely to success, we would mention affability.

Apart from its worth as an agreeable trait of character, affability is a valuable commodity. Every one who has business to transact should add this to his stock in trade. It costs nothing, while it vastly facilitates trade and profit. There are business men and women who make fortunes simply by their affable and polite manners. Their wares or their services are no better, perhaps, than the stock in trade of their crusty neighbors; but having undertaken a business or adopted a profession, they are wise enough to know that whatever is to be done successfully must be done in a pleasing manner and with a good will.

Their acts appear to be based on the conviction that every body may be made a friend, which is every way preferable to acting as if every body were an intruder. They do not treat people as though they were in a hurry to be done with them, but as though they might be cultivated into an acquaintance and grow into a friend. To neglect the small courtesies of life is to insure neglect for yourself. And the reason that some persons are successful where others fail is that they invite strangers to become friends by civility, while the others repel even friends by the want of courtesy.

The world at best is extremely selfish. We are too much taken up with our own personal aims to notice how others are thriving. We little think how others may be wishing for some friendly recognition, how far with them the friendly shake of the hand may go. The world is full of suffering and sorrow, and it is at these seasons that kindly words come with far more than their usual force. The human heart was formed for sympathy as naturally as the flower for sunshine. Hence it is no wonder that the man of affable and kind manners should be the one who would make friends wherever he goes.

It is good to meet in friendly intercourse, and pour out that social cheer which so vivifies the weary and desponding heart. Give to all the hearty grasp and the sunny smile. They send sunshine to the soul, and make the heart leap as with new life and joy. Thus may we become brothers in every good word and deed, and peace and good-will spread in the world. We long for friendly intercourse, and when deprived of the society of others we pine and grow sick at heart, we become misanthropic and gloomy. The Summer of the heart changes to dreary Winter, and our lives seem overcast and gloomy.

We are not well enough acquainted each with each, and all with all. We are not social enough. We are not found often enough at one another’s houses. We are especially delinquent in the duty of calling upon such as come among us and connect themselves with us. We do not welcome them, and seek to make their stay as pleasant as possible. We do not take the kindly notice we should of such as come to our places of public and social gatherings. This is wrong. It is incumbent on us as members of society to cultivate a spirit of affability, to strive to make all within our influence happy by our kind solicitude for their welfare. Says Daniel Webster: “We should make it a principle to extend the hand of fellowship to every man who discharges faithfully his duties and maintains good order, who manifests a deep interest in the general welfare of society, whose deportment is upright, and whose mind is intelligent, without stopping to ascertain whether he swings a hammer or draws a thread.”

As there is nothing to be lost and so much to be gained by the exercise of affability, it is deeply to be, regretted that so few use it. To be affable does not imply an indiscriminate taking into confidence, and imparting to third persons the secrets of your business, at the same time expecting to be informed of his. To do thus is mere simplicity, and is an utter disregard of all cautious rules. But the friendly conversation, the hearty grasp of the hand, the feeling of kindness and good-will which finds expression in the tones, the willingness to do a favor cheerfully,—these constitute true affability, which is not only of value to the possessor, but may almost claim a place among the Christian graces.

How many there are who are not in want of assistance of material things, but who are yearning for social recognition, who feel themselves shut out from intercourse with their fellow-beings by the spirit of selfishness which shows itself in a refusal of social privileges! It is so easy to become thoughtless in this matter that each one should strive against the feeling, and should constantly strive to make all around him feel that he recognizes in them the man or woman, an equal being with himself, and to meet them with kindness by no means devoid of dignity, but to let them see that he is moved by a spirit of good-will towards all, and desires, as far as possible, to do away with the distinction of rank or wealth, and to meet with them on the plane of equality.

In urging affability we do not ignore the fact that there are many to be found in every walk of life with whom the less one has to do the better, that you would as soon think of taking a serpent into the bosom of your family as some people who infest society. But this lamentable fact does not lessen the claims of affability, since, because you are fond of fruit, you are not required to eat indiscriminately all kinds of fruits, the good and also the bad, the nutritious as well as the poisonous, but you are to exercise a judicious elimination. So you are not required to be frank, open-hearted, and sociable with villains and blacklegs, the depraved and licentious. To do this is to sink yourself to their level. But a man may be a gentleman, and as such entitled to recognition, though his coat be not of broadcloth or of the most fashionable make. And a real lady, though clad in calico, is as worthy of frank and courteous treatment as though robed in silk and satins.

, In, pager

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