Analects 12:23

Tzu Kung asked about associating with friends.

Confucius said, “Be chung in urging your friend and skillful in leading him to tao. But if this does not work, stop, and do not make yourself vulnerable to indignity.”

Tsze-kung asked about friendship.

The Master said, “Faithfully admonish your friend, and skillfully lead him on. If you find him impracticable, stop. Do not disgrace yourself.” L

Tzu Kung asked a question about friendship.

The Master said: “Be conscientious in speaking to your friend, but tactful in your efforts to guide him aright. If these fail, stop. Do not court a personal rebuff.” G 64

A disciple of Confucius enquired how one should behave to a friend.

Confucius answered, “Be conscientious in what you say to him! Lead him on gently to what you would have him be; if you find you cannot do that, stop. Do not quarrel with him only to get insulted.” K

Speak to him frankly, and respectfully, and gently lead him on. If you do not succeed, then stop; do not submit yourself to indignity. J


The chun tzu will go the necessary lengths—no more and no less—in leading someone.

Should he offer his insight and find that the person is not seriously willing to consider his views, he stops there without feeling discomposed.

Persisting with such a person is usually a vain effort that will result in that person lashing out at you.