Recently there has been a spate of videos on social media about etiquette. Which fork, which wine, what shoes, how to cross your legs, how to shake a hand, some of it useful, most of it ludicrous. And this, unfortunately what most people have come to define as good manners and a show of class. Nothing could be further from the truth, though.
Good manners require no training and, in fact, require primarily cultivating a sense of gratitude and giving back. Because at the end of the day, no one will remember if your napkin was folded right, but they will remember how you made them feel. And that feeling will be the result of your manners.
Here are some simple rules of good manners that serve well in the workplace or in your personal space.
1. Been helped? Acknowledge it publicly. Social media makes this incredibly easy to do.
2. Pay fair. Play fair. Be ethical in your financial dealings. Pay your staff a decent wage. Don’t let others say you are spoiling it for them. When you borrow, pay back money and try not to live out of your means to impress others.
3. Return hospitality. Stayed in someone’s house. Leave them a nice gift, take them out for a meal, and always invite them back. Never accept that which cannot be offered in return.
4. Be present when you talk to someone. Put your phone away unless you’re dealing with an emergency.
5. Be well-mannered with yourself. Make your bed, put away dirty dishes and laundry, keep your home pleasant and clean.
6. Learn the difference between information and gossip. One is useful, and the other is spiteful. Let gossip die when it reaches you.
7. Making amends is far better than making apologies.
8. Clap for others. It’s the most gracious of good manners to be happy for the success of another. Show this publicly too.
9. Don’t go around or over to access or exploit someone’s social contacts. Respect the boundaries of people who introduce you to their inner circle.
10. An open display of wealth or lifestyle, especially online, is a slap in the face to those less fortunate.
Yes, it’s a wonderful idea to learn the finesse of etiquette. But never let that be confused with good behavior. It’s the difference between giving a gift from the unused gift collection we all have and going out and buying something special to give someone. It’s the difference between acting good and being ethically driven. Etiquette is how you behave in public, while good manners is who you are. In a world where outer show is used as a mask for inner nature, the most powerful thing you can do to make the world a better place is to self-discipline yourself into being well-mannered. You can be the poorest person and still be the classiest person by having good manners because class has always been about manners and not money. Yes, it’s a great idea to learn things like white wine pairs with fish, but it’s even better to buy someone a glass of chardonnay because you know they enjoy it.
Elegance of thought and behavior is an act of courage in a world of fake appearances, online posturing, and spiritual entertainment. Good manners are about authenticity, and they will set you apart from the herd. For as the very wise Emily Post so eloquently said, “Good manners reflect something from inside – an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for oneself.”
Sangeetha Shinde Tee is an author of four books, editor of 3 international magazines, an acclaimed healer, and reluctant entrepreneur. Also an unconventional traveler, rebellious truth seeker, and inveterate animal rescuer, she is working on her fifth book – a collection of ghost stories from around the world. Find out more about her life, books, and work at www.sangeethashindetee.com