I was at a casual holiday lunch event the other day. And as I was observing some of the other attendees, I got to thinking about manners. More specifically, whether or not they still matter. I was raised in a household that valued manners, it was a sign of courtesy and respect to others to have proper manners and my parents settled for nothing less than that from myself and my sister. But that’s not to say my experience reflects others’.
We can all agree that some things are just impolite—talking with your mouth full, interrupting others paying more attention to your phone than your dining companions—but in a world where casual day is every day, and formalities can seem antiquated and even quaint, do manners still matter?
In short, yes.
Why manners matter
We have rules for how we conduct business. Rules for how things are governed and rules for how we behave around one another. Manners are a sign of good etiquette and a sign of care and respect for those around you.
As communicators, we spend our days interacting with people. Networking, attending events, hosting meetings—good manners are just an extension of good customer service. Using the right fork at dinner is one thing, but the smaller actions we practice on a daily basis can really make a difference in our relationships with clients, co-workers, and even outside of the office.
Good manners show you have the best to offer your colleagues and your clients. No matter the culture, background or religions, societies are founded on courtesy and respect for our fellow human beings. Treating each other with respect helps not only you succeed in life but also those around you.
Think about the last time you went somewhere for a meeting. What was the response when you arrived in the office? Did somebody greet you? Offer to get you a beverage, hang up your coat, etc.? Or did you walk in, unsure where to go, what to do, and thirsty, left clutching your unwieldy winter jacket? It’s a small thing, but a warm welcome goes a long way toward setting the tone.
How manners have evolved
When Emily Post began writing about etiquette, she opened up the formal rituals of higher society to the masses by sharing the skills and formalities needed to successfully navigate that world. Over the years her familial successors have modernized it to keep up as life became less formal than it was. But one core thing has already remained: a little bit of kindness and respect can go a long way.
Courtesy is contagious. Saying thank you to the person making your coffee, opening a door for someone elderly, greeting clients with a warm welcome are all things show respect and kindness to others. And that’s something we could all use a little more of.