Proverbs and sayings are popular nuggets of wisdom, often in circulation for centuries and even millenniums. This post contains proverbs and sayings on ego, anger, conflict, and (harsh) words we speak.
If you’re looking for more proverbs and sayings, you can find plenty of them in the resource below. It contains proverbs on topics such as life, family, friends, love, health, happiness, money, hard work, time, time management, teamwork, leadership, business, education & learning, and more.
Our words and behavior
Do as you would be done by.
Treat others like the way you would like to be treated. Some people, for example, ingratiate themselves with the powerful but treat less powerful with contempt. Don’t be like them.
Example: You shouldn’t have been rude to him. How would you feel if someone behaves the same way to you? You should do as you would be done by.
What can you expect from a pig but a grunt?
What can you expect from a bad character but foul and rough language?
Example: Tom: My neighbour quarrelled with me and used abusive language over such a small issue. Jerry: What can you expect from a pig but a grunt?
The tongue is but three inches long, yet it can kill a man six feet high.
A Japanese proverb. We should avoid foul, inconsiderate language because it can leave lasting scars and dent relationships forever.
Example: The tongue is but three inches long, yet it can kill a man six feet high. It did in my case as I lost my friend forever when, in a fit of anger, I used quite harsh language with him, even dragging his friends and family.
A goose quill is more dangerous than a lion’s claw.
Similar in meaning to the previous proverb. Foul, inconsiderate words can cause more pain than a physical attack.
Example: Even when you’re angry, convey your point politely because a goose quill is more dangerous than a lion’s claw.
Even a worm will turn.
Even the weakest will turn around and retaliate if you push him too far.
Example: You shouldn’t have asked for such inconvenience to your friend just because it was the easiest way out for you. He is a nice person and didn’t say much, but even a worm can turn in such cases.
Those who live in a glass house don’t throw stones.
If you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones because others too may throw stones at you which may shatter your glass house. Or don’t criticize others if you are susceptible to the same criticism.
Example: My colleague, who usually turns up late for meetings, once called out a latecomer. The latecomer responded, “Those who live in a glass house don’t throw stones.”
Kind words will unlock an iron door.
People are more amenable to your suggestions and ask if you talk to them politely.
Example: The government officer was quite cold to my father but did the job when I made a polite request. Kind words can unlock an iron door.
Politeness costs little (or nothing) but yields much.
Speaking politely costs no more than speaking rudely, but it can yield much more by making friends.
Example: All things equal, few deals went my way – and not my competitor’s – because of my polite and pleasant demeanour. Politeness costs little (or nothing) but yields much.
Use soft words and hard arguments.
An English proverb. Speak politely. Use convincing arguments based on facts and logic.
Example: I admire our Vice President, Marketing, for how he communicates. He is polite and convincing, and never bulldozes his argument. That’s one of the main reasons why he has risen fast in the organization. If we too use soft words and hard arguments, we can go places.
Make yourself all honey and the flies will devour you.
If you’re a yes-man and often talk sweet language to please others, people won’t respect you.
Example: Tom: This guy tries to keep everyone in good humour and will change his stand just for that. Jerry: True. That’s why people treat him with contempt. Make yourself all honey and the flies will devour you.
Don’t be too sweet lest you be eaten up; don’t be too bitter lest you be spewed out.
A Jewish proverb. If you try to please everyone, you won’t be respected. If you’re indifferent to others, you’ll have few friends. Avoid the two extremities.
Example: I advised my colleague to neither try to please everyone nor be too indifferent to others in the office. Otherwise, he won’t be respected and be able to build friendly relations. It’s rightly said: Don’t be too sweet lest you be eaten up; don’t be too bitter lest you be spewed out.
A good listener is a silent flatterer.
Human beings have an innate desire to be listened, but only few are good listeners. So, if you listen to someone attentively, you’ll flatter them.
Example: One of the reasons I could build such a network of friends is my ability to listen (more than speak) to people. A good listener is a silent flatterer, after all.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Words of flattery may not be sincere. But action (imitation) is sincere. Who wouldn’t be flattered if someone imitates them in some way?
Example: In the conference, the Twitter influencer with more than a million followers was told by a follower that he has amassed more than 20,000 followers by following influencer’s advice. The influencer was extremely happy to hear that. Imitation, after all, is the sincerest form of flattery.
Flattery, like perfume, should be smelled but not swallowed.
Enjoy the flattery you receive, but don’t believe it because people often flatter to meet their own selfish interests.
Example: I know he was all praise for your business acumen, but don’t take his words literally as this guy needs business from us. Flattery, like perfume, should be smelled but not swallowed.
Many men know how to flatter, few men know how to praise.
A Greek proverb. Look around and you’ll find many flatterers, indulging in insincere praise for selfish motives. But you’ll find far fewer people who praise sincerely without any ulterior motives.
Example: Being wealthy and popular, Tom is surrounded by many flatterers, who would say whatever it takes to please him. But there is hardly anyone who means what he says when praising him. Many men know how to flatter, few men know how to praise.
Never mention rope in the house of a man who has been hanged.
Don’t open a topic that might hurt people around.
Example: I was shocked when I heard one of my colleagues bringing up the issue of corruption in banking industry in our Monday meeting. Recently, our Vice President was fired on the same ground. We should never mention rope in the house of a man who has been hanged.
You can’t shout fire in a crowded theatre.
Don’t abuse the right to free speech by speaking alarming, derogatory, or inciting words.
Example: When the plane landed, police arrested the man who raised false alarm of a bomb on the plane. You can’t shout fire in a crowded theatre.
Ego, anger, and conflict
Never let the sun go down on your anger.
If you’re upset with someone for some reason, make peace before the end of the day.
Example: Within an hour of my friend leaving in huff, I called him up and apologized for the rude, point-blank ‘no’ I said to his request and mentioned that I should have been more considerate. Never let the sun go down on your anger.
Night brings counsel.
If you’re angry or conflicted, a good night’s sleep will work wonders in resolving the issue.
Example: Thinking over and over again about the issue isn’t leading to a solution. Why don’t you just sleep over it? Sometimes, night brings counsel.
It’s better to lose the battle and win the war.
It’s better to concede minor points in arguments and finish amicably than win them and have ego tussle.
Example: I climbed down from my position before the friendly argument could heat up, and we all parted amicably. It’s better to lose the battle and win the war.
If you are patient in a moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.
A Chinese proverb. Actions and decisions taken in moments of anger aren’t the best, and they can bring great misery. Wait for your anger to pass and then act or decide.
Example: The customer representative was upset at the illegitimate demand of the customer, but he remained calm and patient because he knew that if you are patient… sorrow.
Never write a letter while you are angry.
A Chinese proverb. Don’t write a text or email when you’re angry. You may write something damaging in those moments of anger, harming your own cause.
Example: I was upset with some of the things that transpired in the meeting, but I stopped myself from dropping an email. After couple of hours, I thought how silly it would have been to write that email. Instead, I walked over to my colleague and resolved the issue. Never write a letter while you are angry.
The bull must be taken by the horns.
We avoid difficult conversations till the issue becomes unmanageable. You must take the bull by horns, which means take on challenging matters head on right in the beginning instead of shying away from them.
Example: Our relationship has been on a steady decline for the last few months, and I’ve been shying away from making that difficult conversation. On my friend’s advice then, I took the bull by its horns, and I’m glad I did.
Do not lengthen the quarrel while there is an opportunity of escaping.
A Latin proverb. Don’t get into an argument or fight in the first place, and if you do get into one, get out of it at the earliest opportunity. Fighting only degrades relationships, never improves it.
Example: The two neighbours are not on talking terms for few months now. My advice to them will be to not lengthen the argument and escape from it during the coming festival season.
It’s never too late to mend.
It’s never too late to change course or make amends for a past mistake. Don’t let your ego come in between.
Example: I think it was your fault, and you should be the one to say sorry and make up with your estranged brother. It’s never too late to mend.
Let bygones be bygones.
Forget past grievances, forgive, and move on. (Bygones are events of past.)
Example: You parted with your business partner acrimoniously more than six years back. Why don’t you make up? It has been such a long time. Let bygones be bygones.
Least said, soonest mended.
When you fall out with someone, restrain yourself from using foul, upsetting language. Words can leave a lasting impression and make it difficult to reconcile.
Example: When the argument heated up with my friend, I deescalated the matter, excused myself, and walked away. Least said, soonest mended.