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Are Your Manners Up To Snuff?

It is amazing to me, in this day and age, just how rude some people can be, and it makes me wonder if the parents of the younger and recent past generations have been teaching their children the expected common courtesies that are exchanged during interactions with others, or have the children just chosen to ignore what they were taught. Discourtesies, however, are not limited to children since some people of an age where they should know better, have also recently been observed exhibiting rudeness.

Most would agree that there are certain things that all children should be taught at an early age to include things like saying “please” when asking for something (without whining), and “thank you” when the request is granted. They should also know to say, “thank you” to anyone who does something nice for them, like holding a door open or helping them pick up items they may have dropped. Children should also learn the proper way to address their elders and how to behave respectfully around them. It is possible that much of the bullying that occurs today could be prevented if parents took the time to not only teach their children to respect others, including those of the same or younger age but to actually insure that they do just that.

Children should also be taught proper table manners: chew with the mouth closed; don’t talk when the mouth is full; hold and use silverware properly, keep elbows off the table; use a napkin (not a sleeve) to wipe the mouth and don’t reach across the table for things but rather ask that they be passed to them. They should learn: how to answer a phone; how to introduce themselves and others properly; how to write a thank you note and should look someone in the eye when speaking with them. Children should know to always knock on a door before opening it, to not interrupt when others are speaking or to say, “excuse me” if it is very important to get someone’s attention. They should know to cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing; to not point or to stare at others; to watch out for others so they can be helpful whenever needed, and to never make comments about another’s appearance unless it is to compliment them.

There is little doubt that one of the best way to teach others the proper way to do things is by example and it is unfortunate that we see many parents today who ignore their children’s bad manners as they don’t seem to realize that not teaching proper manners while children are small will mean they will most likely grow up to be rude teenagers and adults. So, by now you may be wondering why you should be concerned about children’s manners especially if you don’t even have children of your own or if your “perfectly well-mannered children” are now adults and out on their own. Though we may have learned our own lessons in manners as children we are now adults in a setting where there are another whole set of rules under the heading of “business etiquette.”

We practice good manners not only to make a good impression on others but also to show that we are being considerate of one another. We have all, no doubt, witnessed adults who exhibit bad manners by doing inconsiderate things like pushing their way to the front of a line or pushing into an elevator when people are still exiting. There are also those who pass by handicapped folks and elderly people who may be struggling and just leave them struggling instead of trying to alleviate their problem! How often have you heard adults say when school children are being bullied just because they may not be of the same muscular build as school athletes or who may look a little different than the general school population, “well, you know how children can be so cruel!” Makes you wonder where they learned that cruelty!

But, in the interest of good practices, these days business etiquette has more than one focus, i.e. professionalism, table manners, workplace practices and communication. Good manners in the professional area would include how you react to or treat your corporate structure superiors or those below you on the company ladder. Do you, for example, know that to follow protocol when making introductions you always introduce those on the lower rung to one who is among the upper echelon? Do you know that if you are seated, perhaps at a restaurant, and someone you know approaches that you should always stand to greet them, and that you should always introduce the people at your table? Sounds like common sense, however, many folks must not know that because they do not do so.

How one behaves in one company can differ from what may be common practice in another and it would behoove a newcomer to learn what is acceptable. For example, when joining a new company, learning the dress code there would be important before showing up to “casual Friday” in shorts and flip-flops only to find all others in neatly ironed shirts and slacks. Reading the company policy manual is good practice and/or taking time to observe how others behave so one is not considered to be rude. Always “say what you mean and mean what you say” – honor commitments, be agreeable, and always be on time!

How one handles communications says a whole lot about them. Keep in mind that emails can serve as a permanent record, so it is important to be careful what is said in any written material. Your cell phone can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how it is used. It is rude when one is in the middle of a conversation with another to stop to answer a cell phone call as it may be taken as a slight by the person with whom you were speaking. Also, loud conversations on your phone in the presence of others can be extremely annoying.

One of my favorite things to observe is table manners. It often happens at a meal that when you take a roll to place on your bread plate, you find that the person to your left is already using your plate. They obviously are not aware of proper place settings or do not know to follow the “BMW” rule, i.e. bread to the left, the meal in the middle and water (or drink) to the person’s right. It is also not uncommon that some do not know it is proper to wait for all at the table to be served before starting to eat one’s own meal. Little thing matter at the table like placing the napkin in your lap as soon as you sit, and to pass items (ex. salt and pepper) from the right to the left. And I leave you with one thought – did you RSVP for the event or were you inconsiderate, and just showed up at the door?

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