….are they polished and on display?
How interesting that the media is currently shining a spotlight on the lack of good manners in today’s society when I’ve been banging on about this subject for several years. I first moved to the US in the early ‘90’s and was shocked to notice the rather economical use of the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I found this jarring because in those days these simple expressions of courtesy were still commonplace in the UK.
In one of my earlier blogs I ranted about the meaning of ‘RSVP’ which over the years has morphed into an assortment of pick ‘n choose interpretations; all but one being incorrect and inconsiderate towards the host. I won’t revisit that in detail here so feel free to browse the archives. However, something I experienced since writing the ‘RSVP’ blog compels me to post this addendum:
It is NOT OK to turn up 4 hours late and 3 sheets to the wind after not bothering to RSVP.
They’ll never get another invite from me.
Anyway, back to my main point; I firmly believe that good manners are simply a matter of demonstrating empathy and consideration for the feeling of others. You can refine your manners and acquire an elegant finesse once that understanding is in place. For instance; one doesn’t eat dessert with a soup spoon or escargot with your fingers; elbows are kept off the table and your mouth is kept shut while you’re chewing; wiping your knife along the side of your tongue is revolting behavior and a proper, firm (but not bone-crushingly so) handshake coupled with appropriate eye contact, will help with that all-important first impression.
So…I’m now joining the dots. I’ve concluded that because we humans (and by ‘we’ I refer to those of us who live in what are euphemistically referred to as the ‘civilized nations’ of the world) have become increasingly selfish and acquisitive.
Consequently, we care less and less about the impact our words and actions have upon the feelings of others, preferring to bleat ….”What about MY needs and MY feelings?”…I, Me, Mine.
And in case you’re wondering what gives me the authority to speak on this subject, here’s some background:
For starters, learning the meaning of good manners was an integral part of my upbringing. As far back as I can recall, family mealtimes were neither particularly relaxed nor enjoyable (Aside from the food itself which was always good). However, as my Mother told me when I complained bitterly for the umpteenth time about the daily military exercise that came disguised as breakfast, lunch and dinner…”At least I’m confident that we could take you and your sister to dine at Buckingham Palace and you wouldn’t let us down”. Now that was quite an exciting concept to an 8 year old and I’m still waiting for the invite.
Needless to say and as a result of this and other grueling childhood lessons in proper behavior, I can now mingle with confidence at any level as I’m no longer the savage little grub that came into this world, thanks to appropriately firm parental guidance.
In more recent years, I’ve written a regular column for the Denver Business Journal on the topic of business etiquette and followed that with a book; ‘Essential Etiquette – A Guide to Personal and Professional Success’. I’ve taught mid-level executives how to host a business dinner and I’ve coached individuals on their attire, table manners, interview etiquette and their overall presentation in order to advance their career.
If you’d like to read more about this and related topics, check out my website:
Please note; the book is not currently available via the site so if you have specific questions on etiquette, manners, etc., feel free to post them here so that others may read the Q and A.
I should mention that one of the most well-mannered people I know today wouldn’t have a clue as to where to start if presented with a vast armory of cutlery at a formal dinner. However, they consistently demonstrate basic human decency and consideration for the well-being of others.
The fact is that anyone can be taught which fork to use first or the proper way to formally introduce senior people to less senior people… but if you really don’t care what people think of you or how your behavior affects others, carry on as you are. Just don’t be surprised if you’re surrounded by equally uncouth and inconsiderate ignoramuses at your group trough.
BTW, my next blog will be on a much sweeter topic; an impressive treat that’s very easy to prepare and makes a wonderful gift. In fact it’s so delicious that unless you exercise supreme self-control, you’ll have difficulty in giving it… 😉