Social Tips from Ben Franklin and Other Maxim Masters

March 2, 2015

Long before the invention of Facebook and Match.com, our ancestors grappled with how to improve their social lives, forge beneficial connections, and strengthen their reputations.


Centuries later, not all that much has changed. For example, how many of us feel the need to escape from social Siberia? And can’t we all benefit from techniques that will help us win new friends and broaden our social networks for smoother career advancement?


For guidance, we turned to some proverbs of yore. Those pithy and colorful sayings our ancestors spouted to help us live upstanding, productive lives double as today’s new rules for social engagement.


Consider these six gems that have withstood the test of time. Their insights will help us enhance our social lives, extend our online social networks, and lead to greater opportunities for success.



  1. “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Benjamin Franklin, America’s proverbial inventor of proverbs, probably noticed even in the late 18th century that good sleeping habits made him feel better and think more clearly. If our overextended, hectic lives leave us too sleep-deprived and grouchy to pursue a rewarding social life, it’s time we take Ben’s advice. Shut off the computer in favor of shut-eye. Friends and business associates will enjoy their interactions with us more, which may lead to more opportunities.


  1. “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” What Latin writer Syrus, circa 100 BC, may have foreshadowed regarding our 21st century lifestyle is that many of us move too fast to gather much moss (a.k.a., a social life). To gather moss, it helps to slow down our schedules and hang out in one place for awhile. Think about places where we fritter away our time, such as planes, trains, and automobiles. Then sometimes make a point of engaging fellow travelers in conversation. These fellow journeymen and women may have access to all sorts of insider tips, connections, and other perks that will make the road well traveled more interesting.


  1. “Birds of a feather flock together.” Numerous authors over the centuries have claimed this axiom, and it happens to be sage advice for introverts. To find our flock, it’s often helpful to turn solitary activities into social opportunities. Those who like running or painting might use meetup.com to find a running buddy or an artist’s colony. Writers may consider organizing a monthly writers’ group. Forming groups over shared activities helps us break out of our individual silos and find like-minded individuals.


  1. “Build bridges instead of walls, and you will have a friend.” A wise person named Anonymous once coined these words of wisdom. For those who have a hard time making friends on their own, it often helps to befriend just one person who has loads of acquaintances: a connector. Connectors are easy to spot because they are always bumping into people they know on the street. Connectors are often conduits to an improved social life. Reach out to this one person and build a bridge to the whole community.


  1. “‘Tis the part of a wise man to keep himself today for tomorrow and not venture all his eggs in one basket.” Cervantes composed this truism in Don Quixote, and the insight has particular relevance in today’s world with all our online and offline options. Social networking provides numerous avenues to explore, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to name just four. But spending all day behind a computer screen is too net-centric. “Networking” also implies “working the room” offline, and shaking things up by interacting in person. We can ignite our social lives by keeping all options open and putting our proverbial eggs in various baskets.


  1. “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The 17th century scribe, Giovanni Torriano, captured the essence of diplomacy and social discretion. To wit, polite arguments and flattery are more persuasive than confrontational tactics. In today’s world, that translates to “always think before shooting someone a caustic email.”
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