October 11, 2006 EditionAlso in this issue...
The pragmatics of politenessLinda Lou Moore
When you think of manners you:
(A) Cringe at the thought of "all those rules."
(B) Find them unimportant, ineffectual and outdated.
(C) Regard them as pretentious and condescending.
(D) Don't think of them at all.
(E) Think of respect, courtesy and empowerment.
If you answered E, you understand the pragmatics of politeness.
Concern about a lack of civility in America has been the topic of several surveys and articles, including the following:
- ABC news found that 80 percent of Americans believe that a lack of courtesy and respect is a serious national problem. And, 60 percent say the problem is getting worse.
- In the survey, Aggravating Circumstances, funded by The Pew Charitable Trust, Americans say that disrespect, lack of consideration and rudeness are serious and pervasive problems that affect them on a personal gut level.
- Research by ETICON, has shown that 58 percent of people will not continue to do business with a company that treats them rudely.
- Author Peter Post says of rudeness, "People are now saying they won't take it any more."
- Judith Martin of the New York Post writes, "We have cashed in etiquette for a generous helping of self-importance, and the exchange is crippling our ability to function as a civil society."
- Professor Stephen Carter of Yale University writes in his book, "Civility: Manners, Morals and the Etiquette of Democracy," "We have come to confuse rudeness with self-expression and acting on our rights." He also writes, "Good manners have been characterized as the oil that lubricates our everyday interactions, making society bearable É life is tough, but incivility makes it tougher. Using words like 'please,' 'thank you,' and 'excuse me' are symbols of respect for others and are the most basic pieces of the civility puzzle." Americans are becoming increasingly concerned over the lack of courtesy, kindness and civility found in all ages and levels of society. Whether adults or children ~ manners matter.
So, what are manners and what is etiquette?
Manners are how you treat someone.
Etiquette is knowing how to treat someone.
Manners are based on kindness, thoughtfulness, consideration and respect for others. Good manners are unpretentious, honest, kind and tactful.
Some people feel that manners are unimportant. But research has shown that the lack of good manners can put you at a disadvantage. People often tend to make character judgments about you based on how you handle particular situations. It has been found that "technical skills" account for 15 percent of what makes a person successful, while "people skills" account for 85 percent of what makes a person successful. This can be a critical factor when your boss makes decisions about your career advancement.
Many people think that etiquette is just for tea drinking aristocrats. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of us, no matter our age, find ourselves in situations where what we do or what we say is important. Knowledge is empowerment. Knowing what to do enables us to feel comfortable and make others feel comfortable.
Since manners and etiquette are related, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Both skills are important. It is knowing how to shake a man's or a woman's hand, understanding the art of business conversation, knowing the importance of appropriate dress and how to avoid dining disasters. Experts say treating people with respect, courtesy and civility is more important than ever in business relationships.
Manners permeate all aspects of life. It's not just about using the right fork, or knowing an obscure rule of protocol, it's about everyday kindness.
Some of the most overbearing and condescending people are those who are "technically correct." They are the ones who do not take into consideration the feelings of others. They use the rules of etiquette and the practice of "good manners" in a pretentious way to make others feel uncomfortable.
On the other hand, people who have an innate feeling of doing right towards others make some of the most enjoyable company. These are also the people who, when faced with a new or unusual situation, find out how and what should be done. That's good manners. That's etiquette. That's everyday kindness.
Understanding the pragmatics of politeness is to recognize that when you make people feel respected and appreciated, you are of value to them.
It's often the small words that carry the most weight. It's the power of "Please" and the importance of "Thank You." It's respecting others when saying "Excuse Me." Remembering to use "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me" speaks volumes. Courteous phrases can and do open doors. Using these simple, yet powerful words makes life more pleasant for all. But, these words also have a practical application. They can affect the bottom line.
According to Liza Mirza Grotts, a director of AML Group, a San Francisco based company, ignoring such courtesies when conducting business can hurt feelings and profits.
In social, business and familial situations civility, courtesy and respect can make the bumpy road of life much smoother. It takes little time to preface a request with "please," acknowledge an action with "thank you," or admit an error with "excuse me."
Learning good manners at an early age is important. It is a key ingredient to any child's education. Just as we want our children to learn the "3-R's," learning how to treat others is instrumental in a successful life. It is well known that children are great imitators of behavior. When children observe kindness, when children observe courtesy, and when children hear "please," "thank you" and "excuse me," they are more likely to emulate this type of behavior.
Quote of the day: "Civility costs nothing and buys everything." ~ Mary Wortley Montagu
Linda Lou Moore of Paragould is trained and certified by the Protocol School of Washington, Washington, D.C. She offers customized individual and group etiquette programs for children, teens and adults. She may reached at Post Office Box 145, Paragould, AR. 72451 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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