Catholic Husband

Love / Lead / Serve

Where Are Your Manners?

I follow the work of Shawn Blanc pretty closely. Shawn is a writer based in Kansas City who does a variety of work and writing based on doing your best creative work and the tools to help you achieve that end. Among his sites are Tools & Toys and The Sweet Setup. I like Shawn because he and I share very similar tastes, and so if he find a particular app to be very helpful, I will likely do the same. One of Shawn’s sites recently featured a book recommendation, “Emily Post’s Essential Manners for Men: Second Edition” by Peter Post. Emily Post’s writings on etiquette are the gold standard on the subject, and now her grandson, Peter, is carrying on her legacy.

In the United States Armed Forces, there's a focus on customs and courtesies. As the son of an Air Force office, this high level of discipline, attention to details, and the importance of manners was a cornerstone of my upbringing. My brother and I were responsible for getting my mom’s car door, I still always use “sir” and “ma’am” and I always send thank you notes. Manners and etiquette are both lost communication arts in modern society, the saddest part of which is that good etiquette reflects a high level of self-confidence and self-worth.

I picked up a copy of the book and am working my way through it with one goal: I want to be better at respecting Alison and interacting socially with other adults. As Alison gets closer to finishing her residency and we begin job interviews, the way that I present myself in various settings will take on a new level of importance and could potentially make or break a deal. Beyond that, I want to act appropriately in a way that conveys a sense of respect and compassion.

While many of us fail to grasp fully what etiquette truly is, Peter lays out three exceptional principles that clearly illustrate the spirit of the topic: consideration, respect, and honesty.

Consideration is taking into account how others will feel and react to any given situation. Peter describes it as empathy. For example, if I’m at a dinner and I notice someone being mostly left out of the conversation, I can understand how that’d make me feel. I’d feel a bit awkward, uncomfortable, and maybe even put off. Understanding how that individual may be feeling, I can bring them into the conversation by changing the topic to something within their wheelhouse. If I know anything about them, I can ask a question about something that they have experience with and let them open up and feel included and comfortable. In order to be a master of the principle of consideration, it’s important to be a good listener. Hear and file away what people are saying, especially about things in their backgrounds. This is always a great starting point… who doesn’t love to talk about what they truly care about?

The second principle is respect. Respect is the understanding of how your actions will affect someone else. Our human nature often encourages us to do that which will make us feel good, which is why so many employees leave their companies on a bad note. They say what’s on their mind because they believe it is without consequence, but no action is without consequence. Hurtful words hurt, no matter what. Living in a spirit of respect will cause you to make decisions that will build up your relationships with others instead of damaging them. Respect may be steering away from topics of conversation that may bring up bad memories, not repeatedly reminding others of their faults, or even winning a competition with grace.

The third principle is honesty. Honesty is conveying truth, but done in a courteous way. Instead of calling someone else’s idea stupid or inane, you could politely disagree by stating your disagreement with the idea without the need to attack or debase it. Honesty does require that we’re genuine, but that we are in a way that’s not brutal.

If we’re able to successfully incorporate these three principles into each situation that we find ourselves in, we’ll gain the esteem and respect of those around us, and mutually reap the benefits of positive human relationships. Everyone wins when we walk away from a social situation in which we’re all built up, included, and respected.