I was raised by parents who prided themselves on being kind and courteous to others. I was taught, at an early age, to mind my manners, be mindful of etiquette and other social norms, and just “be nice.” Much has been written and discussed about people in today’s world seeming to lack good manners, but I believe little has changed and that there have always been some people who lack good manners, a few people who have good manners, and the rest who have no idea what I am talking about. In my view, manners and etiquette are merely expressions of courtesy and kindness. Manners are not about having a lot of money (many wealthy people are boorish!); they are not about knowing which fork to use (look at what others at the table are doing if you don’t know!); they are not about showing off; and they are not about making people uncomfortable if they appear to be lacking in manners. Instead, having good manners means being kind to others, including strangers and those who perform life’s menial tasks; saying “thank you” and meaning it when someone does something nice; and in general, taking the small amount of time to remember we are all in this world together and we must coexist if we are to survive. In a workplace setting, demonstrating good manners is essential to job success, particularly in a professional environment such as in my company. Arriving on time, showing a genuine interest in the work to be performed, and being pleasant throughout the work day, including during stressful times, is crucial to long term success. Mind your manners!
Melissa may one day write a book on manners – she could easily do so. And, I agree with her philosophy that manners goes beyond table settings. Accordingly, both she and I take the time to say thank you to housekeepers, servers, and the many people we come into contact with as we work nationwide or travel worldwide. Further, we often write letters of commendation for a job well done regarding those who have been particularly helpful. In addition, and back to the forks, we have enjoyed many opportunities to help those new to the work world learn the norms and expectations of the work world. Specifically, when necessary, which fork to use and how to be comfortable in dining or other settings where there are norms. It is often difficult to decide which fork or glass is yours in some settings, like those with a round banquet table. But, as Melissa pointed out, being observant goes a long way, until someone starts out the circle wrong as I’ve frequently observed. You don’t want to be that person! And, it is interesting to note the different norms in different cultures. The year I spent living in Australia was an eye opener as the norm there is two handed eating with knife in one hand (right) and fork in the other (left). It is efficient, and fast, but back here in the USA, it seems crude. So, being cognizant of local manners and customs is critical – and being aware that there are such things can help one avoid being an “ugly American” when traveling the world.