The Etiquette Business – Challenge Number Two

Sometimes when I tell people what I do, they sort of laugh and say, “Manners? Does anybody really pay attention to manners anymore?” What I have found is that many, many people do pay attention. However, there are definite challenges that come along with promoting etiquette/manners in the today’s world. I’ve actually identified five. Number One was posted on December 11. Here is Number Two:

TWO:  Getting the message out that there are standards of behavior and that being flexible does not mean acting below those standards. Flexibility is what allows us to be respectful of the diversity of customs and standards that are part of the world today, but we never suggest that people should behave below the standard.  For example, standards of dress vary from work place to work place. It’s important to be flexible as you choose what to wear depending on the culture of the office where you are working. However, no matter what the culture, you would not wear something that falls below the universal dress standard that requires clean and not ragged. I’d be curious to hear from you if you have other examples I could share.

5 comments to The Etiquette Business – Challenge Number Two

  • Maximilian

    I feel manners has a stigma about it that wreaks a sense of taboo not dissimilar from the seeking of riches or political power or any other form of social superiority. Once that sort of mental tie is broken and that break in association is offered to the right public (‘The Law of the Few’ as detailed in Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”), I predict manners will take back off again and become relevant in a quotidian way.

    Now, There’s something I call the “Lowest Common Denominator” in a culture. There are cultures in which some of the worst social offenses are everyday regularities. This includes but is not limited to say the scent of Indian cuisine and it’s effect upon one’s (olfactory-related) bodily emissions or the thought of being smart and articulate in A-American culture insinuating to others of their culture they’ve “sold out” as if somehow idiocy or crime were indicative of cultural identity. In this sense, lowest common denominator (LCD) is the worst sort of personality a culture creates given its realities – Catalyzed via what the ubiquitous values of the culture are. Suburban 1950’s is the nearest to pure example of a culture almost incapable of fathoming any style of immorality or social degeneration. Inversely, I read on a political website a journalist in close ties with presidential goings-on had overhead former president Clinton mention to another political figure at a social event about Barrack Obama. She quotes him saying “This guy would’ve been getting us coffee a few years ago”. While that was probably true, the point is the reality of their circumstances dictated his political incorrectness, his bad manners. Another good example is the “gold digging” attractive woman. A woman so beautiful would naturally have high standards about what lifestyle she could honestly expect to attain given her standing, the demand. She’d probably sneer at a well meaning fellow who wasn’t up to pecuniary scratch. That reality determined (conditioned even) her impoliteness.

    What I’m getting at here is that there’s a harshness to every reality’s advantages and disadvantages and the way in which a person navigates them, softens them (let alone the idea of adapting the culture in some major development in order to make things more “fair” as if life were ever to be such) determines their politeness. One with much legitimate power who doesn’t lord those advantages over others and tries to be as even handed as they can with everybody regardless of their perceived “importance” is a very cool person, so to speak. That, to me, is manners. It’s what keeps us from ripping one another’s throats out from overwhelm, jealousy, life’s unfairness. It’s the intent underneath a person’s words and actions which really determines how socially mature that individual is and how they’re most likely to impress upon others at a reflexive level (kindness begets good feelings/etc).

    Undoubtably it’s the reason why highly pretentious places of old (Tudor to Victorian Era England, par exemple) had basically mastered the concept of modern civilization itself or what of it involving red tape or bureaucratic procedure. I don’t feel everyone should strive for aristocracy but I do feel it would be nice if everyone had an ingrained affinity toward wholesomeness and kindness, a sense of decorum and propriety. A desire to follow the intent of an object or a ritual (using a ladle to serve soup rather than a cup as a random example I’ve seen), given they felt it was relevant and to respect the diversity of those with different priorities, different values (as with religion or cultural contrast). An inclination toward that sense of warm familiarity and coziness that comes with keeping a clean house and having a basic structural timeframe put to their customs (A read aloud time after dinner to the children alongside with warm tea or milk to aid in the transition to bedtime. This is aside from the basic schedule of meals, hygiene, societal contribution as with school or work, and hobbies/social time). I truly feel that in this way manners are exactly the sense of structure and belonging that appears to be missing from the lives of many that in turn causes the majority of society’s social decay. News reporters, film, and television producers only air what the public will watch and without the moral compass offered by manners and a sound home environment it’s no wonder they broadcast what they do. They’re simply following the hedonistic, sensationalist, and primal impulses which make up the common feebly structured household. Manners define social class. Vulgarity is more than what some would see in an ill-fitting suit. It’s a lifestyle more akin to a wild animal than to that of a human being. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional similarity to wild animals or even being soiled with dirt or grime, but there is a time and a place for everything; There’s a time when that’s appropriate (say when mountain biking) and a time when it isn’t (e.g. shopping at the local grocer).

    This expatiation is written very frankly and honestly with little regard to political correctness. Yet my every intent is to give my true view point with no malevolent intent toward any classification of person of any monetary scale or heritage. I’d like to think I’m one of the most open and accepting people there ever was, aside from the contingency that I do have my own preferences and methodology about how I think it’s best to live given what I’ve experienced and what suits my fancies (For example, I think it would be nice if everyone had their own back garden for reading, company, and nature appreciation). I would like to think there was a vast number of people who were genuinely similar in philosophy. Thanks for reading.

    • epi

      Hello Maximilian. I am the web moderator for The Emily Post Institute and I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts on both this blog and the Etiquettedaily. The nature of our discussion here makes a clear reply difficult but I do appreciate your contributions. Take care.

  • Maximilian

    You didn’t publish my comment? Well That’s it. Now I’m boycotting your site. Congrats, you’re down to a measly 4 visitors. Good luck with your pretentious twaddle.

  • I agree with your basic premise entirely. What I find challenging is that many people simply do not know what a call the cardinal rules of etiquette. For example, embarrassing someone in public is to be avoided at all costs. There are others which do not change even as skirt lengths do. I find people resonate to these basic concepts. Keep up the great work that do and offer so freely!

  • when i was searching yahoo just for this issue, I feel that its no answer for me , but thanks god , your article save me from this.1$

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