As a mother, a wife, and a professional I don’t write about etiquette and manners from a high tower while wearing white gloves, I write from the trenches. I ponder questions such as, “Should I write a thank you note to the ER nurse who so kindly removed the popcorn kernel from my son’s ear?” I hear myself stating etiquette guidelines to my kids like, “If you don’t want to smell his feet, stop attacking him with that sword.” I make well-prepared, thoughtful schedules that are derailed by nauseous children, muddy puppies, and pure exhaustion.
Life is good. Life is full. Life is the unexpected moments. It is from this perspective that I discuss manners. So in our busy, work-filled, relationship-filled, child-filled lives, why do manners matter? I have so many answers to that question. Here’s a sample:
1. Manners matter so we can handle life’s unexpected moments with grace and poise.
2. Etiquette matters because it give us (and our children) confidence in any social setting, casual or formal, if we know basic guidelines for how to behave.
3. Manners matter because at some point in life most of us will need to make a first impression, interview for college, interview for a job, make a friend, meet a spouse, make a toast, host a dinner, lead a meeting, write a letter, write an email, impress a boss, and raise a child.
But, ultimately, (drum roll please) manners matter because people matter.When we hold a door we send the message, “I see you. I acknowledge you. You matter.” When we stand up to meet an older person we say, “I respect you. I honor you.” When we use words like “please” and “thank you” to a waiter we acknowledge him as a person. When we look someone in the eye we tell her, “What you have to say is important and I am listening.”
We don’t think about these hidden messages but we know they’re there because we feel their absence when they’re missing. We feel disregarded when someone allows a door to close in our face. We feel unappreciated when someone fails to extend us basic courtesies. Manners matter because people matter.
Here’s the beauty of this truth: if manners matter to you, you will view people in a different light, they will begin to matter more. If your children are taught manners, they will naturally relate to others with kindness, thoughtfulness, and respect. As parents, spouses, employees, and bosses – how can we ask for more?