“Etiquette is all human social behavior. If you’re a hermit on a mountain, you don’t have to worry about etiquette; if somebody comes up the mountain, then you’ve got a problem. It matters because we want to live in reasonably harmonious communities.”–Judith Martin aka. Miss Manners
I am convinced that the vast majority of our problems in the world of humanity would disappear if the vast majority of humans practiced basic etiquette.
No, I’m not thinking about which fork is proper to use nor which stemware to utilize for certain beverages. That particular sort of etiquette is not what I have in mind unless we are to attend a state dinner.
The sort of etiquette that is most important is the behavior that brings forth our innate kindness towards others. We do not need to receive engraved invitations and don formal clothing in order to practice basic good manners.
As Miss Manners has mentioned, “we want to live in reasonably harmonious communities.” The communities include everything from the family unit, to the country of residence, to the international community. The most basic etiquette can be defined as thinking of the well-being of others as much as ones own. In western religious terms, basic etiquette is the Golden Rule tempered with a healthy serving of respect.
I mention respect, because it seems many people do not have genuine self-respect, so they are unable to treat everyone else with respect. It is easy to see this lack of respect when we witness someone acting in selfish, self-centered ways, and when we catch ourselves doing the same.
Have you ever been in the situation when you’re prevented from pulling out of a driveway onto the street when traffic is extremely busy and stopped up? It seems like an eternity will pass until you’ll be able to drive on the street. Then, it happens. A random driver halts his vehicle and gestures for you to proceed onto the street in front of him. Doesn’t that act of good manners make you feel some joy? If you contemplate the other driver’s action, you might imagine that he also feels a little joy because of his decision to allow you access to the street.
The traffic scenario is an example of the true nature of etiquette. It means one intends at, all times, to ensure people we encounter feel at ease. Even at the worst of times, it helps to remember that returning rudeness in retaliation for rude behavior only increases the amount of friction and ill-will in the world. Showing respect for oneself in equal measure with respect for another works in all but the most extreme, rare situations we might encounter in life.
Boorish bragging and showing off are good ways to incite the dislike of others. We probably know of some people who consistently behave this way. We judge them as self-centered, childish people. Even if we think we are not judgmental people, this ill-will irritates us deep inside. A braggart is someone who crosses the line between assertiveness and aggressiveness. We can see how assertiveness utilizes good manners while aggressiveness either exploits manners or discards them altogether.
In day to day living we encounter or meet people, practice politeness, become acquainted, or conduct business. It is etiquette and good manners that are the catalysts for successful interpersonal relationships. Imagine this happening at every level of human interaction.
Thank you for reading these words.
The Blue Jay of Happiness shares another gem from Miss Manners. “We already know that anonymous letters are despicable. In etiquette, as well as in law, hiring a hit man to do the job does not relieve you of responsibility.”