Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why Does Etiquette Matter?

What is the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word etiquette?

For those of us in the “X” and “Y” Generation some of the images and memories may not be so positive. Some of us can picture parents and grandparents nagging about closing our mouth when chewing, choosing the right fork to eat with, and/or writing thank you notes. Young children often perceive etiquette as annoying and tedious practices that are instilled by their elders. Children are instructed on what is proper but aren't taught why these practices are so important. Once kids are out of their parents house often times all those rules of etiquette are dropped and long forgotten because no one is there to nag.

Well, let’s try and figure out why etiquette is in our lives and for goodness gracious why grandmothers made us use our indoor voice, say please and thank you, and write thank you notes after every gift!

Since I’m not the expert we’re going to look to the great Post family for some insight AND so you don’t think I’m just making this stuff up.

Peggy Post reminds us that etiquette is about three main principals:

  • Respect: Interest in others as they are
  • Consideration: Thinking before acting (we could all brush up on this one!)
  • Honesty: Acting sincerely, being truthful, and tactful

These three principles, in conjunction with manners, make up etiquette and is the formula to which we learn how to interact with one another. When was the last time you felt disrespected? Bet is wasn’t that long ago. When is the last time you considered the feelings of someone before your own? Did you ever think being dishonest with someone wasn’t proper etiquette? Looking at etiquette from a “big picture” perspective shows us that it truly all starts with these three principles.

So, wait…how are manners different from etiquette? I’d thought you’d never ask! Manners, as Peggy says, “Smooth the way for building better relationships.” Manners + the Three Principals make up etiquette. Manners are kind of like rules for one’s culture on how you should act in a social setting. When someone has good manners, i.e. says please and thank you, you feel a sense of real appreciation from the other person. When someone has bad manners it generally raises a red flag in your mind.

I have found one of the biggest challenges with manners is being sincere about them. When is the last time you came across someone “thanking you” for something that just sounded totally artificial? Remember your tone of voice and facial expression speaks louder than words.

Difference between the Three Principals and Manners

Three Principals

  • Timeless
  • No cross-cultural boundaries


  • Time sensitive
  • Vary between cultures (we’ll talk about this too!)

Make sense? I think so.

So that was a lot to swallow but it is so important to remember that when you practice proper etiquette you are being a respectful, considerate, and honest person in society. These aren’t your grandmother’s rules, these are rules built and supported by society so we can all get along a little bit better. While of course some may be out of date, and we’ll discuss that here, it is important to practice, teach, and share the proper etiquette and manners in our every day lives.

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