Confucius at court

朝與下大夫言,侃侃如也;與上大夫言,誾誾如也。君在,踧踖如也,與與如也。
When he was at court chatting with officials in the lower ranks, he was genial; when he was chatting with officials in the upper ranks, he was respectful. When the ruler was present, he looked dignified and serene.

When translating this chapter, I realized that my comment in my previous entry that only “very few vestiges… remain today” of the “highly-ritualized world that Confucius lived in” was a tad, shall we say, melodramatic.

For if you strip away the traditional gowns and choreographed movements, this description of Confucius’s behavior when he was at court is not that different to how people behave in any institutional environment today. Indeed it features some excellent tips on how to navigate your way through any organization:

Be friendly with the lower ranks: you never know when you might need their help in making a program of yours happen.

Show respect to your peers and immediate bosses even if you don’t like them personally: you’ll need all the support you can get when it comes to your next proposal or promotion.

Show due respect to the big boss but be self-assured in their presence. You don’t want them to think that you lack confidence.

Food for thought over the weekend.

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