“O, Times! O, Manners! It is my opinion
That you are changing sadly your dominion
I mean the reign of manners hath long ceased,
For men have none at all, or bad at least…
~ Edgar Allan Poe, Poetry, Tales and Selected Essays
If Mr. Poe was bemoaning the decline of manners in the 19th Century, perhaps there has always been an element of incivility in society. We are most certainly hearing an outcry about the widespread lack of common courtesy in the early 21st Century. However, we know now, as the learned knew back then, that those who master etiquette skills generally are more successful in their social and business lives.
And, now there is something in which Mr. Poe most likely would have been happy to participate: National Etiquette Week (NEW), which is being observed during this week, May 13-17.
According to Cindy Haygood, owner of The Etiquette & Leadership Institute in Athens, Georgia, sponsor of National Etiquette Week, “(NEW) was established in 1997 by Sandra Morisset, a PSOW children’s etiquette consultant, as a way to raise awareness of the importance of courtesy, civility, and good manners in everyday life. The theme of this year’s NEW…is ‘Put the Civil Back Into Civility.’ Civility is a vital part of the professional and social realms—business, social, dining, travel, technology, wedding, and international protocol. But we also need civility in everyday life.”
So, whether you’re at home, on campus, at school or work, in the community, traveling, or wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, make a point to mark this week by polishing and practicing your best manners.
Of course, if you’re a regular follower of this blog, you’re already familiar with the correct etiquette and protocol to exercise in various circumstances and have put into practice many of the behaviors and skills discussed since January 2012 (see Archives for previous entries since January 2012). This week, however, consider making an extra effort to demonstrate those skills and spread the word about the value of adhering to the guidelines of etiquette, at the heart of which is respect, kindness and consideration for others:
- Smile; be welcoming, attentive and pleasant to your parents, siblings and other family members.
- Surprise someone by performing an unexpected chore.
- Clean your room, walk the dog and do your homework without being asked.
- Spend 30 minutes really listening to and conversing with one or both of your parents; make eye contact, don’t interrupt, and turn off your smartphone.
- Practice good table manners.
- Smile; be welcoming, attentive and pleasant to professors and staff members, campus-mates and everyone you meet.
- Practice good cellphone etiquette when attending lectures, concerts and classes; dining and conversing with friends and classmates; and in theatres and restaurants. Turn off your device anywhere where it might cause a disruption, distraction or interruption. Use it when you are alone, or when with others when it is to the mutual benefit of everyone.
- Connect with others by shaking hands correctly and making proper introductions.
- Attend a networking event and practice your mingling skills.
- Be punctual in arriving at all classes, appointments and meetings.
- Smile; be welcoming, attentive and inclusive to all classmates, teachers, staff and parents as you travel around the school building and grounds.
- Be on time to all classes, meetings and events.
- Offer to assist a teacher with a task or chore.
- Say “hi” to someone you’ve never spoken to before.
- Participate in a class you don’t particularly enjoy.
In The Workplace
- Smile and offer a nod and brief greeting to everyone you meet in the hallways, elevators, cafeteria, lobby, auditorium, restrooms and conference rooms.
- Arrive at meetings on time, turn off your cellphone, participate in any discussions, don’t interrupt and remain for the duration.
- Begin your meetings on time, distribute the agenda, encourage everyone to contribute to the discussion, turn off your cellphone, don’t interrupt and end the meeting on time (preferably after one hour).
- Avoid gossip, slights, raising your voice and answering your office or cell phone while meeting with others in your office.
- Treat all staff and coworkers with equal respect, deference and dignity.
Around The Neighborhood
- Smile at everyone you meet, during your walks, in the stores and parking lots, during your commute on the train or bus, at meetings, in the playground and at school.
- Drive and bike carefully and obey all traffic laws; watch out for school children crossing the street; be courteous to other drivers; avoid hitting pets and wildlife; don’t hold up traffic; let other cars cut in front of you in difficult traffic situations; don’t blow your horn except for safety reasons; ensure that all passengers use their seatbelts and do not distract you from your driving; don’t text while driving; don’t leave children or pets in your car unattended – ever.
- Park carefully on the street and in parking lots; avoid parking in “handicapped” parking spaces unless you are truly handicapped and display the appropriate tag; avoid confrontations over parking spaces.
- Don’t litter in public places or on private lands.
- Open doors; carry packages; give up your seat for someone who needs it more.
In Shops, Stores and Restaurants
- Smile at other customers and store associates; greet them with a nod or wave.
- Avoid cutting ahead of anyone in line, but offer to let others with small orders – or small children – go ahead of you.
- Wait on customers and patrons promptly and courteously; give them your full attention and time; never argue with a customer; resolve problems swiftly and kindly; say “thank you” for stopping by whether or not they make a purchase.
- Treat restaurant servers, clerks and store associates with respect and courtesy; explain or report problems calmly; always leave your server a tip.
- Practice proper dining etiquette and dress appropriately, whether at a formal, informal or casual event.
Smile, and Change The World
You might have noticed that I listed “smile” as the first point under each category. That was not an error; smiling is your secret weapon and your first step toward demonstrating and spreading goodwill and civility. Use your smile often and genuinely to benefit not only others, but also yourself.
Following the rules and spirit of proper etiquette can help to improve one’s outlook on life! See how many outlooks you can improve this week! Please share your stories in the “Comment” section! And, don’t stop shining the light of civility when this week ends. The best way to change the world for the better is for everyone to make someone’s day a little better, a little brighter, one day at a time.
Until next time,