Quotations about   behavior

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Precisely in trifles, wherein a man is off his guard, does he show his character, and then we are often able at our leisure to observe in small actions or mere mannerisms the boundless egoism which has not the slightest regard for others and in matters of importance does not afterwards deny itself, although it is disguised. We should never miss such an opportunity. If in the petty affairs and circumstances of everyday life, in the things to which the de minimis lex non curat applies, a man acts inconsiderately, seeking merely his own advantage or convenience to the disadvantage of others; if he appropriates that which exists for everybody; then we may be sure that there is no justice in his heart, but that he would be a scoundrel even on a large scale if his hands were not tied by law and authority; we should not trust him across our threshold. Indeed, whoever boldly breaks the laws of his own circle will also break those of the State whenever he can do so without risk.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life,” part 2 “Counsels and Maxims,” ch. C “Our Attitude toward Others,” sec. 29 (1851) [tr. Payne (1974)]
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The Latin means, "The law is not concerned with trifles." Alternate translations:

A man shows his character just in the way in which he deals with trifles, -- for then he is off his guard. This will often afford a good opportunity of observing the boundless egoism of man's nature, and his total lack of consideration for others; and if these defects show themselves in small things, or merely in his general demeanor, you will find that they also underlie his action in matters of importance, although he may disguise the fact. This is an opportunity which should not be missed. If in the little affairs of every day, -- the trifles of life, those matters to which the rule de minimis non applies, -- a man is inconsiderate and seeks only what is advantageous or convenient to himself, to the prejudice of others' rights; if he appropriates to himself that which belongs to all alike, you may be sure there is no justice in his heart, and that he would be a scoundrel on a wholesale scale, only that law and compulsion bind his hands. Do not trust him beyond your door. He who is not afraid to break the laws of his own private circle, will break those of the State when he can do so with impunity.
[tr. Saunders (1890), published separately as Schopenhauer, Counsels and Maxims, ch. 3 "Our Relation to Others," sec. 29]

Men best show their character in trifles, where they are not on their guard. It is in insignificant matters, and in the simplest habits, that we often see the boundless egotism which pays no regard to the feeling of others, and denies nothing to itself.
[In Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts, "Character" (1891); this is the version quoted most often.]

Added on 17-Dec-21 | Last updated 17-Dec-21
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At the Conclusion of my last Paper, I asserted that the Summary of Good Breeding was no other than that comprehensive and exalted Rule, which the greatest Authority hath told is is the Sum Total of all Religion and all Morality.

Here, however, my Readers will be pleased to observe that the subject Matter of good Breeding being only what is called Behavior, it is this only to which we are to apply it on the present Occasion. Perhaps therefore we shall be better understood if we vary the Word, and read it thus: Behave unto all Men, as you would they should be behave unto you.

This will most certainly oblige us to treat all Mankind with the utmost Civility and Respect, there being nothing which we desire more than to be treated so by them.

Henry Fielding (1707-1754) English novelist, dramatist, satirist
Covent Garden Journal, #56 (25 Jul 1752)
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Added on 8-Nov-21 | Last updated 8-Nov-21
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The question was once put to him, how we ought to behave to our friends; and the answer he gave was, “As we should wish our friends to behave to us.”

[ἐρωτηθεὶς πῶς ἂν τοῖς φίλοις προσφεροίμεθα, ἔφη, “ὡς ἂν εὐξαίμεθα αὐτοὺς ἡμῖν προσφέρεσθαι.”]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Attributed in Diogenes Laërtius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers [Vitae Philosophorum], Book 5, sec. 11 [tr. Yonge (1853)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

To the question how we should behave to friends, he answered, "As we should wish them to behave to us."
[tr. Hicks (1925), sec. 21]

When asked how we should act towards friends, he said “as we would pray they act towards us!”
[tr. @sentantiq (2016)]

When asked how we should behave to friends, he said, "As we would wish them to behave to us."
[tr. Mensch (2018)]

Added on 21-Sep-21 | Last updated 21-Sep-21
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We can’t function as a society unless we have norms of how to behave. You can’t pass enough laws to take care of every human interaction.

Jerry Springer
Jerry Springer (b. 1944) Anglo-American broadcaster, actor, producer, politician
Interview by Stephanie Ruhle, MSNBC, @1:12 (1 Nov 2019)
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Added on 7-Jul-21 | Last updated 7-Jul-21
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Nothing predicts future behavior as much as past impunity.

Darius Rejali (b. c. 1959) Iranian-American academic, political scientist
In Jane Mayer, “Torture and the Truth,” New Yorker (14 Dec 2014)
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Added on 3-May-21 | Last updated 3-May-21
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Alcohol is not likely to bring out any impulse that is not already potential in a personality, nor is it likely to cast behavior into patterns for which there is not already significant subsurface predilection. The alcohol merely facilitates expression by narcotizing inhibitory processes. […] The oil which lubricates the engine of an automobile neither furnishes the energy for its progress nor directs it.

Hervey Cleckley (1903-1984) American psychiatrist, academic
The Mask of Sanity (1950 ed.)
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Added on 15-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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From the simple observation that mental illness is marked by odd behavior flows a host of problems. For nothing seems clearer than that we are responsible for our behavior; from there, it seems only a small step to the conclusion that a disease characterized by strange behavior must be a disease under our control. And so we appeal to willpower in the devout belief that we can think our way to mental health. We advise the victim of depression to look on the bright side; we tell the person in the midst of a sky-high manic episode to take a deep breath and calm down. When it comes to mental illness, we are all Christian Scientists.

Edward Dolnick (b. 1952) American writer
Madness on the Couch, ch. 18 (1998)
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Added on 7-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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No one has ever been known to decline to serve on a committee to investigate radicals on the ground that so much exposure to their doctrines would weaken his patriotism, nor on a vice commission on the ground that it would impair his morals. Anything may happen inside the censor, but what counts is that in his outward appearances after his ordeal by temptation he is more than ever a paragon of the conforming virtues. Perhaps his appetites are satisfied by an inverted indulgence, but to a clear-sighted conservative that does not really matter. The conservative is not interested in innocent thoughts. He is interested in loyal behavior.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
Men of Destiny, ch. 8 “The Nature of the Battle Over Censorship,” sec. 2 (1927)
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Added on 2-Dec-20 | Last updated 2-Dec-20
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If conversion to Christianity makes no improvements in a man’s outward actions — if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before — then I think we must suspect that his “conversion” was largely imaginary; and after one’s original conversion, every time one thinks one has made an advance, that is the test to apply. Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in “religion” mean nothing unless they make our actual behavior better.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, ch. 10 “Nice People or New Men” (1952)
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Added on 30-Oct-19 | Last updated 7-Sep-21
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Marriage is not a noun, it’s a verb. It’s not something you have, like a house or a car. It is not a piece of paper that proves you are husband and wife. Marriage is a behavior. It is a choice you make over and over again, reflected in the way you treat your partner every day.

Barbara De Angelis (b. 1951) American relationship consultant, lecturer, author
Ask Barbara: The 100 Most-Asked Questions About Love, Sex, and Relationships (1997)
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Added on 25-May-18 | Last updated 25-May-18
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Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, but a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter 1 (1796)
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Added on 7-Sep-17 | Last updated 7-Sep-17
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For behavior, men learn it, as they take diseases, one of another.

Emerson - for behavior - wist_info quote

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Solitude and Society,” Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1857)

Paraphrase of Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 2, Act 5, sc. 1: "It is certain that either wife bearing or ignorant carriage is caught, as men take diseases, one of another: therefore let men take heed of their company." Sometimes misattributed to Francis Bacon.
Added on 24-May-16 | Last updated 24-May-16
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Act uprightly, and despise Calumny; Dirt may stick to a Mud Wall, but not to polish’d Marble.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (1757)
Added on 4-Apr-16 | Last updated 4-Apr-16
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The test of a man or woman’s breeding is how they behave in a quarrel.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
The Philanderer, Act 4 (1893)
Added on 26-Feb-16 | Last updated 26-Feb-16
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A refined simplicity is the characteristic of all high bred deportment, in every country.

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) American novelist
The American Democrat (1838)
Added on 5-Feb-16 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
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Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives, and we obey them without realizing it.

Van Gogh - emotions - wist_info

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch painter
Letter to Theo Van Gogh (Jul 1889)
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Added on 10-Nov-15 | Last updated 13-Nov-15
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Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
(Attributed)

Never specifically cited, and attributed with variations in the language. Also attributed as a Chinese or Buddhist proverb.
Added on 26-Oct-15 | Last updated 26-Oct-15
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There is (usually) no crime in performing a jerk maneuver, or acting like a jerk. Everyone can, and has, acted like a jerk from time to time. It’s a regrettable but natural part of the human experience. But most people have the good sense to understand that acting like a jerk should not be a lifestyle choice, and that if you make it one, people will respond to you based on your choices.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
“Being a Jerk About the Hugos: Not as Effective a Strategy as You Might Think”, Whatever (blog) (24 Aug 2015)
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Added on 14-Sep-15 | Last updated 14-Sep-15
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The objection to Puritans is not that they try to make us think as they do, but that they try to make us do as they think.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major, 5.22 (1916)
Added on 23-Sep-14 | Last updated 23-Sep-14
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Teenagers can be idiotic and stupid, but teenagers also model their behavior from the signals they get from adults.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
The Last Colony, ch. 4 (2007)
Added on 17-Sep-14 | Last updated 17-Sep-14
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There is hardly any bodily blemish which a winning behaviour will not conceal, or make tolerable; and there is no external grace which ill-nature or affectation will not deform.

James Burgh (1714-1775) British politician and writer
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
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Added on 28-Aug-14 | Last updated 28-Aug-14
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If your flirting strategy is indistinguishable from harassment, it’s not everyone else that’s the problem.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
“Convention Harassment Policy Follow-Up,” blog entry (5 Jul 2013)
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Added on 30-Jul-14 | Last updated 30-Jul-14
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“Well, I suppose one ought not to employ a magician and then complain that he does not behave like other people,” said Wellington.

Susanna Clarke (b. 1949) British author
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004)
Added on 4-Jun-14 | Last updated 4-Jun-14
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Self-interest sets in motion virtues and vices of all kinds.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #263 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 4-Feb-14 | Last updated 31-May-19
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When believers and unbelievers live in the same manner — I distrust the religion.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1864)
Added on 3-Jan-14 | Last updated 3-Jan-14
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You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
The Republic
Added on 16-Aug-07 | Last updated 24-Sep-14
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Visible goodwill is the strongest negotiation strategy. Don’t let somebody else determine your behavior.

(Other Authors and Sources)
S. U. Sunrei
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Nov-21
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