Some years ago, a cartoon (by Roz Chast?) in The New Yorker depicted a man who utterly lacked lack-of-pretense. ("Let's all speak French tonight!" he suggested.) There's a fine line between sophistication and ostentation, just as there is between modesty and coyness, or between innocence and disingenuousness. The quasi-reformed Mr. Toad in The Wind in the Willows boasts of himself, "Few have so little to be modest about!" We laugh at him.

But how to avoid unconscious pretense in our own relationships? Honesty, tempered by kindness, is an essential starting point. Self-deprecating humor helps --- especially if it springs from genuine humility, based on a recognition of one's limitations. (Compared to the infinite, we're nothing, eh?!) It's wise not to assume that others have the same background and capabilities, barring evidence otherwise. Offer context and explanations; invite feedback and questions. Be strict with one's self, but cut others some slack. Above all, empathize. Strive to understand. Listen, first and last.

Monday, October 11, 1999 at 15:06:21 (EDT) = 1999-10-11


(correlates: Franklin on Pride, SunDance, Spectrum of Deceit, ...)