Leadership lessons from Confucius: putting on a brave face

brave face

疾君視之,東首,加朝服拖紳。
When he fell ill and his ruler came to visit him, he had himself laid with his head facing the east and his body covered by his court dress with a sash laid across it. (1) (2)

Even at times of great personal discomfort or distress, do your best to put on a brave face when people come to visit you. This not only helps you to preserve your own personal dignity, but it also enables you to show your respect for them taking the time to come and see you.

Even if forced, a cheerful demeanor may also help avoid awkward moments as your guest tries to figure out what to say to you. People find it so much easier to talk if you put their mind at ease.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 19 of Book 10 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 10 here.

(1) Confucius (or the model gentleman in question) would have had his head laid facing the east because the conventions of ritual dictated that a ruler would enter the house from the eastern steps. Thus, he would be able to greet his royal guest with his eyes.

(2) Even though Confucius (or the model gentleman in question) was too ill to stand, his insistence on wearing court dress showed his respect for the ruler and the conventions of ritual.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Yilan, Taiwan.

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