Do manner matter anymore? Does etiquette still have a place in our culture? We don’t hear “please, thank you, and excuse me” as often as we used to. “Yes/No ma’am” is almost non-existent. People no longer give up their chair for the elderly or expecting mothers. Why is it that we are ok with this move away from a polite society? With the age of smartphones and instant entertainment, we no longer know how to behave at a restaurant, concert, or even church. Young adults entering the workforce no longer know how to interview, attend a business meeting, or dress for work.
The problem is, we’ve stopped teaching manners and etiquette thinking that it’s too old fashioned. We’ve sacrificed politeness and social graces for the false sense of progress. Friends, this is not progress, this is regression. A common misconception is that etiquette is all about what fork you use, what glass you drink from first, and which monogram is on the flatware. Those things are still good to know and fun to practice, but etiquette is so much more than knowing when to excuse yourself or how to hold your teacup.
“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” (Emily Post)
What are manners and etiquette? Manners are defined as your outward bearing or behavior towards others. Good manners are described as a polite or well-bred social behavior. Etiquette is defined as the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.
Why are manners, and etiquette, so important?
- When we practice good manners, we open the door for relationships and influence that we wouldn’t have otherwise had.
- When we practice social etiquette, we gain the respect of others.
- When we practice good manners and social etiquette, we increase our own confidence and self-esteem.
Basic everyday manners are a great place to start, especially with young children. I split these basic manners up into two categories. Things like “please, thank you, you’re welcome, and excuse me” are verbal manners. Things like letting the elderly have the last chair, chewing with your mouth closed, and not burying you nose in your device when someone is talking to you, these are what I classify as behavioral manners. Below is a list of basic manners I believe every one of us should exhibit in our lives.
1) Saying thank you when we receive a good or service. This includes when a waitress brings your food out at the restaurant. I’ve had someone tell me before “that’s their job, you don’t have to ask or thank them.” Yes, you do. It may be their job, but they are still providing a service for you and that should be appreciated.
2) Responding to thank you with “You’re welcome”. We, as a people group, have gotten ourselves into the horrid habit of responding with “no problem”. Nobody needs to hear about your problems, or lack of, with what you did for them. Graciously accept their thanks with a simple “you’re welcome”. Trust me, it’s way less awkward for all parties. “My pleasure” could also be an appropriate response.
3) Say “excuse me” when you need to pass by someone or in front of someone. Also, if you need to interrupt for an important reason, start with “excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt…”
4) When someone is speaking to you, give 100% of your attention. This means putting your phone down, turning away from the television, or pausing the game to focus on the speaker. We are such a distracted people and it’s sad to think about how much we miss because we’re not paying attention.
5) Learn to graciously accept a compliment. When someone offers you a compliment, accept with a gracious smile and a “thank you”. Nothing is more awkward than complimenting someone and them immediately launching into self degradation, explanation of why they don’t deserve a compliment, or what they could have done differently.
When we use good manners and social etiquette we are placing a higher value on the people we are surrounded by. We are telling them that they are worth our kindness and our behavior will reflect their value.