What Everyone Wants
Everyone likes tobe liked, to be invited to parties, to be asked out on dates. Some people are just great to have around, their presence enhances the events they attend, and you always walk away from them feeling good.
What do those people have in common? They’re great with people, they treat people well, they make you feel like they’re interested in you, they know how to interact with others, and they carry themselves with poise in all situations.
Is it a special gift, a personality thing, or natural talent? Well, it’s probably more about their simply being genuinely kind and caring about others.
You can become one of those people—known for your etiquette, manners, love, and consideration. This doesn’t just come naturally; you have to first learn what you should do and then work at doing it.
As we have more contact with people from all walks of life, we need to present ourselves well and be well educated in etiquette and manners so we will feel comfortable and can interact well with others in any situation.
There is no excuse for lack of etiquette and kindness. If you study to become well versed in how to interact with others with courtesy, respect, and proper manners, you’ll avoid a lot of mistakes, embarrassment, and the possible negative repercussions of poor manners.
Practicing and Benefiting from Thoughtful Behavior
Everyone can greatly benefit by re-examining traditional good manners as they apply to contemporary life and the work environment. Taking stock of what really counts is important—like acknowledging someone with a proper introduction or treating family and friends with common respect and consideration.
Good manners are much like a roadmap, providing ways to improve how you feel about yourself and others. Simple skills and techniques of common courtesy that can improve all your relationships and your overall state of happiness can be incorporated into the way you live and work.
Yes, some elements of etiquette deal with which fork to use and your behavior at cocktail receptions. But etiquette, in general, is a much broader issue. Being a model of good manners is your key to surviving all contact, with your sense of humor and your self-esteem intact and your reputation enhanced.
Practice is a word with several meanings. The expression “practice makes perfect” implies that the mere repetition of an action makes it second nature. Saying that a routine is common practice means that it’s habitual behavior. Music students know that practicing is a way to sharpen skills and prepare for public performances. Constantly applying good manners in your daily interactions rewards you and those around you.
Start by becoming aware! Try to grade yourself on how you generally conduct yourself socially and professionally right now, noting where you can improve. Begin by asking yourself how you feel after [some event or encounter]. Do you later regret your comments or behavior? Did you overreact or respond in anger? Make a mental note where you can make positive changes. Make a list or keep a journal of the areas you would like to improve. Check it weekly or monthly to see whether you’ve made progress. Improving your conduct just takes a level of awareness and a little (here’s that word again) practice!
There’s no such thing as a vacation from good manners and politeness. A well-mannered person behaves nicely toward everyone, all the time.
Peter: Demonstrating good manners is a lifestyle—it’s not something that you can turn on when needed. …It has to become part of your makeup and your everyday comportment, or it’s not likely that you’ll be able to carry it off well for special functions, or when you are hosting visitors, or visiting them at their homes or workplace.
Building character and self-esteem
Character: “Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.” What does this quote from preacher Phillips Brooks mean? It means that the little acts of kindness are what really count, such as going out of your way to help a friend; remembering to say “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me”; being a good listener; smiling often; and responding to others’ rudeness with restraint.
Behave as if you care about others as a way of caring about yourself. Your behavior is an indicator of your character. If you work on building your character, your behavior never embarrasses you!
Here are a few tips for building character:
Develop thoughtfulness. Thinking with your head and your heart can help you go a long way in putting others’ needs before your own wants and desires. Look for ways you can help others at home or at work.
Watch what you say—and how you say it. Your choice of words has an enormous impact on the way you interact with others, and try to be aware of your tone of voice when you speak to others.
Celebrate diversity; tolerate and accept differences. Get to know people who are different from you.
Self-esteem: The way you feel about yourself has a huge effect on the way you treat others and on the kinds of choices you make. Your self-esteem includes the value you place on yourself as a person, your achievements, your place in the world, and the way you think about how others see you.
If you’ve had experiences of being praised, loved unconditionally, trusted, and listened to, then you’re likely to have healthy self-esteem. If, on the other hand, your experiences have been those of being harshly criticized, ridiculed, ignored, or made to feel inadequate, then you may experience low self-esteem. Fortunately, no matter what your experiences have been until now, you have the opportunity to improve your self-esteem, and the self-esteem of those around you.
Skills and tools to raise your self-esteem include the following:
Give and receive compliments with sincerity and grace.
Practice and use table manners at all times.
Always say “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me.”
Spend time with people who like you and care about you.
Do things that you enjoy and that you do well.
Develop your talents.
Set goals and work to achieve them.
Reward yourself for your successes.
Make good choices for yourself, and take responsibility for yourself and your actions.
If you’ve made a mistake, apologize immediately.
Always do what you believe is right.
Write positive traits about yourself in a journal.
List etiquette traits you would like to achieve and maintain.
Using common sense
Etiquette may be intimidating for most—but hey, relax! Common courtesy is nothing more or less than common sense. You can find nothing more common than those little magic words, “please” and “thank you.” Or are they that common? They should be. Simply looking someone in the eye and saying “thank you” can make all the difference in the world.
If you’re feeling a little unsure about yourself in certain situations, just think about how you want others to treat you. If you treat others with dignity and respect, they will do the same. What goes around really does come around.
Manners mean just being sincere, so practice until it comes naturally and from the heart. Try to bring some consideration, grace, and style back into your life through your personal presence and demeanor.
Here are a few basic tips:
When in public, be discreet with your cell phone calls and keep the vibrate mode on. Avoid taking cell phone calls when you’re having face-to-face time with other people, such as during meals.
Always check behind you when entering or exiting a door. If someone is behind you, be sure to hold the door open, no matter whether the person is male or female.
Being pushy and speaking loudly in public, especially in a small shop, in line at the post office, or in a restaurant, is unfortunately common nowadays. However, it’s not the loudest person who impresses his dinner companions or strangers in public; it’s the person with quiet confidence and good manners. Try to use low, intimate tones, and if you’re waiting in a long line, practice patience, don’t complain out loud, or make a scene.
Making lasting impressions
Though you may not always admit it, most people do make character judgments within the first few seconds of meeting someone. Appearances and behavior leave a lasting impression about a person’s overall abilities and character.
Good manners and thoughtful behavior do matter. They were important years ago and are vital today if you’re looking to close the deal or simply leave positive impressions at social gatherings. People are still watching, but the stakes may be higher for you. The judgments people make about you can affect your future.
You need to show that you understand what is appropriate and that you care about the impression you make. (Editor: More on how to make a great first impression in an upcoming issue, “YOU branding”.)
Empowering yourself through good manners
When you take the lead in putting people at ease and making every situation pleasant, you exhibit poise. Poise comes from being confident.
In today’s climate, etiquette and civility are sometimes seen as snobbery. Others view polite behavior as a sign of weakness, and some professionals actually believe that it’s impossible to get to the top while being gracious and polite. None of this is true. Knowing how and when to ask for what you want in a polite manner means empowerment.
When you need to ask for something, be sure to remember the following:
Speak up. Even if you feel intimidated or nervous, you can get around these roadblocks that undermine your efforts by speaking with confidence.
Invite reactions; make it easy for your allies to respond to your request or expectation. Be open to constructive criticism.
Be specific, focus clearly on what you really want or need, and ask for it. You may even want to jot down a few notes or rehearse mentally before making your request.
Don’t undermine yourself. Adding on demeaning beginnings or endings to what you’re saying—such as, “I know this is a stupid question, but…” or “I’m sorry to have to ask you this…”—makes you sound like you lack confidence.
Don’t make jokes at others’ expense
Everyone likes to be around people who make them feel intelligent. For Jay Leno, this is an ironclad rule of being a talk-show host: “The trick is to make the guest look good at the expense of the host. The shows that tend to fail are the ones where the host looks good at the expense of the guest. Eventually that host realizes, ‘Hey, how come I’m not getting these guests anymore?'” …
“I spent the first half of my life trying not to embarrass my mother and the second half trying not to embarrass my wife,” cracks Jay Leno. Jay has never done a wife joke on The Tonight Show because he knows that all humor is rooted in truth. Leno needs to get laughs to stay in business, but a joke at his wife’s expense just isn’t funny.
To be continued…