Definition of Etiquette
“Consideration for the rights and feelings of others is not merely a rule for behavior in public but the very foundation upon which social life is built.” - Emily Post, Etiquette 1st edition
The philosophy of etiquette is timeless and everlasting, whereas manners – the outward expression of the underlying principles of etiquette – are ever-changing. Manners, by their very nature, adapt to the times. While today’s manners are often situational, tailored to particular circumstances and the expectations of those around us, they remain a combination of common sense, generosity of spirit, and a few specific guidelines or fluid “rules” that help us interact thoughtfully. And as fluid as manners are, they all rest on the same fundamental principles of etiquette: consideration, respect, and honesty.
Consideration is being aware of and understanding how a situation affects everyone involved. It is thoughtful behavior, which informs actions that will affect others in a positive way. Consideration prompts us to help a friend or stranger in need, to show appreciation, to offer praise.
Respect is demonstrated by actions, appearance, and words that honor and value others, regardless of their background, race, or creed. It’s demonstrated in all your day-to-day relations—refraining from demeaning others for their ideas and opinions, refusing to laugh at racist or sexist jokes, putting prejudices aside, and staying open-minded. Being inclusive is a way of being respectful – that is, making an effort to learn about and accept others whose backgrounds and cultures are different from one’s own. We also show respect not just by what we refrain from doing but also by intentional acts, such as being on time, dressing appropriately for the occasion, acknowledging value in the ideas and beliefs of others, or giving our full attention to the person or people we’re with.
Self-respect is just as important as respect for others. A person who respects herself isn’t boastful or pushy, but is secure in a way that inspires confidence. She values herself regardless of her physical attributes or individual talents, understanding that integrity and character are what really matter.
Honesty is acting sincerely and being truthful. Honesty compels us to choose to act with integrity in ways that honor and respect others. It eschews the “white lie,” which denies both consideration and respect. Honesty allows us to apply empathy to find the positive truth and act upon it, without causing embarrassment or pain.
Two Other Essential Qualities
Graciousness and kindness are an integral part of courteous behavior. Graciousness is the ability to make other people feel welcome and comfortable in your world. Kindness is much like consideration but it also reflects the warmth in your heart.
“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” - Emily Post