Thursday, August 18, 2011

Always in Style

image: etiquettedaily.com
Emily Post

"Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality--the outward manifestation of one's innate character and attitude toward life" --Emily Post, quote at bartleby.com. I will add that the capacity to learn manners is highly dependent on one's ability to self-regulate, which means being aware of and having control over one's own thoughts and behavior.


I was taught manners and propriety as I grew up. By the time I was 6 or 7 years old, I knew the name Emily Post. I was recently inspired to get my hands on her book and see what fabulous rules of civility had earned her household recognition through a couple of generations. After an online search, I found emilypost.com and learned that Emily Post's great-grandaughter in-law, Peggy Post, continues the campaign for etiquette and civility. Originally written by Emily Post in 1922 with the title Ettiquette in Society, in Business, and at Home, the book has been revised and edited by Peggy Post and is now in its 17th edition, most recently published in 2004 as Emily Post's Etiquette. The newest edition tackles dealing with situations and ettiquette that is relevant in the new millenium.

Peggy Post recognizes the value of self-regulation, which is a term most frequently used in the field of psychology. Manners, civility, our ability to self-regulate, and capacity for judgement, which originates in the frontal lobe of your brain's cerebral cortex, is the predominate difference that distinguishes humans from other animals--even other primates. It all comes full circle when you consider that we are the only species with civilizations and cultures, which requires getting along with others and developing complex rules, official (i.e. laws) and unofficial (i.e. waiting in line and not jumping to the front). Acting with civility, manners, a sense of propriety, and doing what's right despite temptations is the height of humanity and reflective of our cognitive and self-regulatory abilities. There is no excuse for "acting like an animal." Having class and being cultured is the interpersonal behavioral consummation of being human.

After watching The Housewives of NYC Reunion a couple of weeks ago, I have been increasingly aware of some people's inconsiderate, rude, and uncivil behavior--across a range of demographics. That being said, I am compelled to remind people that how you act is a reflection of you. Being rude, mean, inappropriate, disrespectful, entitled, or gross is NOT becoming, regardless of how much money or taste you have or how justified you think you are. There is an appropriate way to handle everything. I am not suggesting that you just sit there and smile when something really disturbs you. If the person or issue doesn't matter, ignore it and distract yourself. If the situation is important enough to address, be assertive; being assertive does not mean being disrespectful.

The responsibility to be civil and respectful falls to the individual adult. Although Emily Post might be almost a century in the past, the fundamentals of her teachings continue to be relevant. Please be mindful of your behavior and set the standard for class. Noone cares how awesome your shoes are if you don't know how to act.

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