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What Persuades Is The Character Of The Speaker, Not His Language

François de Sale

What persuades is the character of the speaker, not his language. Ménandre

Ménandros (in ancient Greek Μένανδρος / Ménandros) is a Greek comic author, disciple of the philosopher Theophrastus. Considered one of the most important representatives of the New Comedy, he worked in the last quarter of the 4th century BC.

With this phrase Menander tells us that who we are is stronger than what we say. It is futile to try to convince others of any idea if one has not already experienced it oneself.

This maxim is a kind of paraphrase of : “we teach more by what we are than by what we say”.
Character is the cornerstone of a person. We can hardly hide our true nature with fine words. People are not fooled. For most of them, it is easy to see through the mask of the words we say. There is no better speech than our behaviour and character. Often words are meant to deceive, whereas simply by observing someone, especially their actions, we can get a good idea of who they are. Hearing is deceptive, but sight rarely deceives.

This is why it is essential to practice the principles before preaching them. Knowledge that is only theoretical is synonymous with erudition, whereas experience allows one to acquire true knowledge and even wisdom. Before speaking, therefore, one must ask oneself whether one is worthy of being listened to. Today, we sometimes wonder whether we should not speak loudly in order to impose our views. Ménandre teaches us the opposite: it is better to be discreet, to improve one’s character before pretending to advise people. It is even better to speak only when we are solicited. If you have achieved remarkable things in a field, people will naturally come to you for advice. It is only by working to improve yourself that your words will have strength: they will resonate in the hearts and minds of those who listen to you.

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