Good manners are the social oil that we use to decrease friction between ourselves and our opinions and the opinions of others. Do you know someone who constantly overwhelms you, who could easily be accused (and convicted) of being rude, or who is completely intolerant of your ideas, beliefs, or feelings? Do you struggle with using good manners with them? Don’t give up!
- Manners are different from etiquette. Etiquette is simply a set of formalized instructions on how to behave in specific circumstances (which fork to use, when to be seated, etc). Manners are more related to the general notion that people should be polite and respectful of others and their opinions. Rudeness is the opposite of good manners.
- Good manners always work to make others feel comfortable. Good manners dictate that we should work to make others feel comfortable and accepted in our presence, regardless of how their upbringing, culture, or traditions differ from ours.
- Good manners treat everyone with proper respect. You should especially treat your closest family and friends with good manners and respect so don’t reserve good manners only for people you’re trying to impress. Show good manners to anyone and everyone. I’m particularly sensitive about showing proper respect to elderly people and insist that my children do the same.
- Mix honesty with diplomacy and tact. Honesty is always the best policy, but never use honesty as an excuse to be hurtful. The truth may indeed hurt, but only when it’s wielded with malicious intent or complete disregard for how another person feels.
- Good manners show consideration for others. Make it a point to do the little things such as saying “please” and “thank you,” respond promptly to invitations, and be on time. Open doors for other people, don’t rush to get in front of them in queues or lines, and THINK about how what you say could be misunderstood. Use your words and actions to show people you value them, their efforts, and their time.
- Be flexible. Not everyone grew up with the same traditions, customs, and rules that you did. Be sensitive to local laws, and lapses, of manners. For a great site on manners abroad in executive situations check out Executive Planet. It’s filled with ideals on how to give gifts, make presentations, entertain for success, engage in polite conversations, and accepted public behaviors.
- Good manners never humiliate. Never intentionally make anyone look bad in public. Never mock, commenting on someone’s clothes or appearance, or publicly point out someone else’s bad behavior. Seek ways to allow them to save face and avoid being ridiculed.
Good manners should always take precedence over etiquette or any other tradition or formalized dictate. Basic human kindness and thoughtfulness should always come before nitpicky rules. When in doubt, show good manners and you’ll always look your best and help others to look their best as well.
Photo by unruhly