Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior

There is a lot of talk about civility these days, and I’m not going to pretend that humanity has always been civil. In fact, we’ve had some pretty rough beginnings-like when cave men used to murder each other for resources or kill women just because they were stronger than them. But things have changed quite a bit since then, with the establishment of basic social rules like “don’t hit people” and “you don’t get preferential treatment based on your gender.”

The “rules of civility and decent behavior pdf” is a book that provides the rules for civilized society. The book was written in 1838 by Henry Ward Beecher.

George Washington painting full body portrait.

Respect. Everyone wants to be respected by people around them. George Washington, America’s first president, was a guy who won respect from both his allies and his foes. Washington was well-known for his polite demeanor. Some could say that his formality veered too close to becoming cold. His formality, on the other hand, helped him gain respect everywhere he went.

When Washington was 16 years old, he copied by hand a list of 110 politeness norms prepared by Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century. I’m confident that the time Washington spent as a child penning down these principles influenced the generous statesman he would grow up to be.

While some of the rules on the list are a bit stuffy, formal, and schoolmarmy for our contemporary tastes, many of them are still relevant today. A guy who follows these guidelines will set himself apart from the rest of the jerks out there.

The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation by George Washington

(Please note that the original spelling and punctuation have been preserved.)

1. Every action taken in company should be accompanied by some kind of respect for those present.

2. When in company, don’t place your hands on any part of the body that isn’t often seen.

3. Don’t show your friend something that could frighten him.

4. When You’re With Others Make no humming noises or drum with your fingers or feet while singing to yourself.

5. If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it quietly rather than loudly, and do not speak while yawning; instead, place your handkerchief or hand in front of your face and look away.

6. Don’t sleep when others speak, don’t sit when others stand, don’t speak when you should be silent, and don’t walk when others stop.

7. Don’t take off your clothes in front of others, and don’t leave your chamber half-dressed.

8. It is proper etiquette to give way to the last Commer at play and at fire, and to pretend not to speak louder than usual.

9. Do not spit in the fire, nor stoop down in front of it, nor place your hands in the flames to warm them, nor place your feet on the fire, particularly if there is meat on it.

When you sit down, keep your feet firm and even, without crossing them or placing one on top of the other.

11. Do not squirm or gnaw your nails in the presence of others.

12. Do not shake your head, feet, or legs, do not roll your eyes, do not raise one eyebrow higher than the other, do not wry your lips, and do not bedew any man’s face with your Spittle by getting too close to him while speaking.

13. Kill no vermin such as fleas, lice, ticks, and so on in the presence of others; if you see any filth or thick Spittle, deftly step on it; if it is on the Cloths of your Companions, put it off quietly; if it is on your own Cloths, render thanks to him who puts it off.

14. Do not turn your back on others, particularly while speaking, jog the table or desk where someone reads or works, and do not lean on anybody.


15. Keep your nails short and tidy, as well as your hands and teeth, but don’t show much concern for them.

16. Don’t puff out your cheeks, don’t stick out your tongue, don’t rub your hands or beard, don’t shove out your lips or bite them, and don’t keep your lips too open or too closed.

17. Don’t flatter anybody, and don’t play with someone who doesn’t want to be played with.

18. Do not read letters, books, or papers in company unless you have permission to do so; do not approach another’s books or writings to read them unless you have permission to do so; and do not look close while another is writing a letter unless you have permission to do so.

19. Keep a cheerful expression on your face, but be somewhat solemn in serious matters.

20. Your body gestures must be appropriate for the topic of discussion.

21. Take no pity on Nature’s infirmities, nor delight in putting those who are thinking about them.

22. Do not rejoice in the misfortune of another, even though he is your adversary.

23. You may be pleased internally when you see a crime punished, but always show pity to the suffering offender. Make no attempt to bring attention to yourself.

24. At any Public Spectacle, do not laugh too loudly or too much.

25. Extraneous Complements and any Affectations of Ceremony should be avoided, but they should not be overlooked when they are required.

26. To Persons of Distinction, such as Noblemen, Justices, and Churchmen, remove your hat and bow more or less according to the Better Bred’s custom and the person’s quality. Expect your equals to not always start with you first, but pulling off the Hat when it isn’t necessary is Affectation; in terms of saluting and resaluting in words, stick to the most common custom.

27. It is impolite to request that someone more prominent than oneself be covered, as well as to fail to do so to whom it is owed. Similarly, he who rushes to put on his hat does not do well, but he should do so at the first, or at most the second, request; now, what is said below, of qualification in saluting conduct, should also be respected in taking of place, and sitting down for ceremonies without bounds is inconvenient.

28. Though anybody approaches you while you are seated, rise, even if he is your inferior, and when you provide seats, assign them to everyone according to their degree.

29. When you encounter someone of higher quality than yourself, come to a halt and withdraw, particularly if you’re near a door or a straight line, so he may pass.

30. Because the highest place in most countries seems to be on the right hand, go to the left of the person you like to honor; but, if three people walk together, the middle place is the most honorable; and if two people walk together, the wall is generally given to the most deserving.


31. If anybody greatly surpasses others in age, estate, or merit, but would provide a place to a poorer than himself in his own lodging or elsewhere, he should not accept it, and he should not use much earnestness nor offer it more than once or twice.

32. You are to give the primary Place in your Lodging to one who is your equal, or not much below, and he who is offered ought to deny it at first, but take it at the second, albeit not without confessing his own unworthiness.

33. Those in positions of dignity or authority have precedence in all matters, but those who are young should respect those who are their equals in birth or other qualities, even though they have no public duty.

34. It is proper etiquette to favor those to whom we speak before ourselves, particularly if they are superior to us and with whom we should not begin in any way.

35. Keep your conversation with businessmen brief and comprehensive.

36. Artificers and low-ranking individuals should not perform many rituals for Lords or those of high rank, but rather respect and greatly honor them, and those of high rank should treat them with affability and courtesies, without arrogance.

37. When conversing to men of quality, don’t lean in or look them in the eyes, and don’t go too close to them or you’ll lose your breath.

38. When visiting the sick, don’t pretend to be a doctor if you don’t know what you’re doing.

39. Give each person his or her proper title, according to his or her degree and the customs of the place, in writing or orally.

40. Rather than arguing with your superiors, constantly submit your judgment to others with modesty.

41. Make a promise not to teach your equal in the skill that he professes; it smells arrogant.

42. Let thy Courtesy be appropriate to the Dignity of the person with whom thou converses, because it would be ludicrous to behave the same way with a Clown and a Prince.

43. Do not display joy in front of someone who is sick or in agony, since this will worsen his misery.

44. If a guy tries all he can and yet fails, it is not his fault.

45. If you are to counsel or reprimand anybody, decide whether it should be done in public or in private; in what words to do it now or later; and in reprimanding, show no sign of cholar but do it with all sweetness and mildness.

46. Select all admonitions gratefully at whatever time or place they are delivered, but if you are not responsible, take a suitable time and place to tell him who provided them.

47. Do not mock or jest at something important, and if you provide anything clever and pleasant, refrain from laughing at it.

48. Wherever you chastise someone, be blameless yourself; examples are more common than precepts.


49. Do not use obscene or derogatory language towards anybody, including cursing and reviling.

50. Do not be quick in believing flying reports to the detriment of others.

51. Do not wear filthy, tattered, or dusty clothes, but see to it that they are brushed at least once a day, and that you do not approach any Uncleaness.

52. In your clothing, be modest and try to accommodate Nature rather than seeking admiration, and follow the fashion of your peers who are civil and orderly in their times and places.

53. Do not run in the streets, nor walk too slowly or with your mouth open; do not shake your arms; do not kick the soil with your feet; do not walk on your toes; do not dance.

54. Don’t be a Peacock, looking around to see whether you’re well-dressed, if your shoes fit properly, if your stockings sit nicely, and your clothes are well-dressed.

55. Do not eat out of season on the streets or in the house.

56. If you value your reputation, surround yourself with decent men; it is better to be alone than in poor company.

57. When walking up and down a house with only one other person in company, if he is greater than yourself, give him the right hand first and do not stop until he does, and do not be the first to turn, and when you do turn, turn with your face towards him; if he is a Man of Great Quality, walk not cheek by joul but slightly behind him; but still in such a manner that he may easily speak to you.

58. Let your conversation be free of malice and envy, because this is a sign of a noble and commendable nature; and in all causes of passion, let Reason to rule.

59. Never say or do anything unseemly in front of your superiors, and never break the Moral Rules.

60. Don’t be shy about encouraging your friends to uncover a secret.

61. Do not utter low and trivial things among solemn and learned men, nor exceedingly difficult questions or subjects, among the ignorant, or things difficult to believe, and do not stifle your discourse with sentences among your superiors or equals.

62. Speak not of doleful Things at a Time of Mirth or at the Table; Speak not of Melancholy Things as Death and Wounds, and if others Mention them, Change if you can the Discourse reveal not your Dreams, except to your closest Friend.

63. A man should not place a high value on his achievements or unusual wit qualities, much less on his wealth, virtue, or kinship.

64. Do not break a Jest if no one enjoys mirth. Laugh not openly or at all without cause, and make fun of no one’s misfortune, even if there seems to be a reason.

65. Do not use damaging words in jest or earnest scoff at someone, even if they provide occasion.

66. Be nice and courteous rather than arrogant; be the first to salute, hear, and respond, and don’t be pensive when it’s time to converse.

67. Do not detract from others, and do not command excessively.


68. Do not go where you do not sure whether or not you will be welcomed. Give advice only when asked, and only briefly when wanted.

69. If two people are fighting, do not take the side of either without constraint; and do not be stubborn in your own opinion; in all things, be on the Major Side.

70. Do not judge others’ flaws; that is the domain of Parents, Masters, and Superiors.

71. Don’t look at other people’s markings or flaws and wonder how they got there. What you may say in private to a friend, do not reveal to others.

72. Speak in your own language in company, not in a foreign tongue, and do it as people of quality do, not as the vulgar; take Sublime issues seriously.

73. Think before you speak, and don’t speak in a sloppy or hasty manner, but rather in an ordered and clear manner.

74. When somebody speaks, be attention to yourself and do not disrupt the audience. If anybody hesitates in his words, do not assist him, do not Prompt him without his permission, do not Interrupt him, and do not Answer him until his speech is over.

75. If a Person of Quality comes in while you are conversing, it is attractive to repeat what was stated before. If a Person of Quality comes in while you are conversing, it is attractive to repeat what was said before.

76. While speaking, do not point your finger at the person about whom you are speaking, nor get too close to him, particularly to his face.

77. Deal with men about business at appropriate times and in private, not in the presence of others.

78. Make no comparisons, and if one of the Company members is commended for a bold act of virtue, do not laud another.

79. Don’t tell the truth if you don’t know what you’re talking about. When you’re looking for anything, don’t say your author’s name since it’s a secret.

80. Do not be sedentary in discourse or reading unless the Company is delighted with it.

81. Do not be inquisitive about others’ affairs, nor approach those who speak in private.

82. Don’t take on more than you can handle, and be careful to honor your promises.

83. When you convey a message, do it without emotion and with discretion, no matter how important the person is.

84. Do not listen, speak, or laugh when your superiors speak to anybody.

85. When you’re in the company of people who are of higher quality than you are Wait until you are asked a question before speaking, then stand up, remove your hat, and respond in a few words.

86. In Disputes, do not be so eager to win that you do not allow each person to express his or her opinion and submit to the Major Part’s judgment, particularly if they are the Judges of the Dispute.

87. Befitting a Man Grave, make thy carriage. Settled and attentive to what is being said. Don’t always contradict what others say.

88. Do not be tiresome in your discourse, do not make numerous digressions, and do not speak in the same way again and over.


89. It is wrong to speak evil of the absent.

Being Set at Meat (number 90) Scratch, spit, cough, or blow your nose only when absolutely necessary.

91. Don’t make a show of delighting in your victuals, and don’t feed with greed; cut your bread with a knife, don’t lean on the table, and don’t criticize what you eat.

92. Do not use salt or cut bread with a greasy knife.

93. It is proper to serve meat to anybody who is entertaining at the table; undertake not to assist those who are not requested by the Master.

94. If you soak bread in the sauce, just soak as much as you can fit in your mouth at a moment, and don’t blow your broth at the table until it cools down on its own.

95. Do not put your meat to your mouth with a knife in your hand, nor spit out the stones from any fruit pie on a plate, nor cast anything beneath the table.

96. It is unseemly to stoop thus low to one’s meat. Keep your fingers clean, and if they become dirty, wipe them with a table napkin corner.

97. Do not put another bite into your mouth until the previous one has been swallowed. Make sure your morsels aren’t too large for your jowls.

98. Don’t drink or chat with your mouth full, and don’t look around when you’re drinking.

99. Don’t drink too slowly or too quickly. Wipe your lips before and after drinking, and never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever

100. Do not clean your teeth with a table cloth napkin, fork, or knife; but, if others do so, don’t say anything.

101. Do not rinse your mouth in front of others.

102. It is pointless to call on the company often to eat; similarly, you do not need to drink to others every time you drink.

103. In the presence of your superiors, do not take longer to eat than they do; place just your hand, not your arm, on the table.

104. It is the chiefest in company’s right to unfold his napkin and fall to meat first, but he must do it on time and with finesse so that the slowest may have time.

105. Whatever occurs at the table, do not be angry, and if you are, do not show it; put on a happy smile, particularly if there are guests, because good humor turns one dish of meat into a feast.

106. Do not sit at the head of the table; but if it is your due or the master of the house would have it that way, do not argue, lest you disturb the company.

107. Pay attention to what others are saying at the table, but do not speak with meat in your mouth.

108. Take God and his characteristics seriously and reverently when you talk of them. Even if your original parents are impoverished, honor and obey them.

109. Make your pastimes manly, not wicked.

110. Strive to keep that sliver of divine fire known as conscience alive in your heart.




The “rules of civility and decent behavior” was created in the 18th century by a French philosopher named Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The purpose of these rules is to create a society where people are treated with respect, dignity, and equality. Reference: what was the purpose of the rules of civility and decent behavior.

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