People often describe etiquette as manners. The two are very closely linked, but they are different. I like to say that manners are the sister to etiquette. They belong in the same family but one is practical and the other is kind.
I believe it was Emily Post who said, “Etiquette is knowing which fork to use, manners is not saying anything when your neighbor doesn’t.” When talking with my friend and accountability partner, Beth Buelow, president of The Introvert Entrepreneur, she put it this way, “Etiquette helps you be more comfortable and manners make others more comfortable.”
Etiquette is rules and guidelines that help us to know how to handle social and professional situations. Being knowledgeable about etiquette makes navigating the world easier. When we know what to do we can relax.
Many years ago, when I worked for Washington Mutual, I noticed that some of my coworkers would look panicked when faced with a formal place setting at the breakfasts and lunches we attended. I thought it was a shame that by simply not knowing how to navigate the place setting they felt uncomfortable and unsure of themselves. Had they known the etiquette rules for navigating the place setting – start with the utensils farthest from the plate and work your way in towards the plate, and that your bread plate is always on the left, your glass is always on the right – they would have been much more relaxed and able to enjoy the event.
It was at that time I first thought of becoming an etiquette consultant. I wanted to help my coworkers know the etiquette rules for these sorts of situations so that they could be more confident and comfortable navigating them.
After I became an etiquette consultant years later I learned the difference and importance of manners.
Manners are about being a kind, gracious person. If you forget your etiquette – you use the wrong fork or send an email using all caps for instance – but you’re a kind, gracious person it really doesn’t matter. Having good manners will take you far.
Since I often share etiquette tips, I thought it would be helpful to share some tips for being a more mannerly person.
Be forgiving of others
At the holiday dinner party, if your cousin chews with his mouth open and takes your piece of pie don’t point out his bad manners, forgive him and instead focus on his good traits. What is it about your cousin you love? Does he have a big heart? Is he funny? Is he a good friend? We all have our faults, when we forgive others and look for the positive life becomes easier.
Say please and thank you, hold doors open for others, be helpful. I may have written about this before, but it bears repeating. A few years ago I attended a workshop where the room was quite full. There was one open chair next to me but I knew anyone coming in would have a hard time reaching it. When a woman walked in I decided to pick up the chair and carry it to her. When I set it down for her you would have thought I had given her a million dollars. She was so thankful for my kindness, she even tweeted about it.
It doesn’t take much to be courteous. Be aware of people around you and help where you can.
Former Secretary of State, Colin Powell wrote in his book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, that while Secretary of State, he wandered down to the White House garage and asked one of the garage attendants how they decide who will be parked in and who will be able to get out easier. The attendant he spoke to looked a little sheepish and replied, “Well, it’s like this Mr. Powell, when you pull into the garage and you roll your window down, say good morning and maybe remember our name, you’ll get parked towards the entrance so that you can get out easier. But, if you pull up, keep your window up and don’t acknowledge us we’ll put your car in the back of the garage where you’ll be parked in.”
Take a moment to say hello to the barista who makes your coffee, the sales clerk, the janitor who keeps your office clean. You’ll make a bigger impression than you may ever know.
Having good manners will serve you well. And, when you practice good manners and good etiquette the world will be your oyster.
What would you add to the list of ways to be a mannerly person? Have you ever been impressed by someone’s good manners?