Lessons from a Southern Mother

Manners Always Trumps Etiquette

From the time I was but a small girl, my mother would repeatedly remind me and my sisters of what a lady does and does not do.  

Ladies do not use their dresses as a dinner napkin. 
 Ladies always comb their hair before coming to the breakfast table. 
 Ladies do not have dirty fingernails. 
 Ladies sit with their knees together and ankles crossed.  

 Good manners was synonymous with being a lady and  how horrible it would have been to not be considered a lady.  While the world seems to no longer hold being lady-like in as high  regard as it once did, I believe there is still great value in those early lessons.

Etiquette or Manners?

Etiquette is a French word meaning "a ticket or a note", but what does a ticket have to do with good manners and being a lady?  Well, first, let's look at the difference between etiquette and manners.

 Several hundred years ago, should you be invited to a fancy party, your invitation would have included a small card with a list of the do's and don'ts.  This etiquette (card) insured that you knew what was proper and that you would not embarrass yourself or your host.  
I have always seen etiquette as the list of rules  and manners as the list of rules, with an asterisk.

Etiquette says..."Use the correct fork with dinner."
Manners says... "If your dining with someone and they use the 'wrong' fork, continue eating...
*do not draw attention to their mistake."

Making others feel at ease is the essence of good manners, yesterday and today.

All too often, people assume that good manners are a way to feel superior about oneself, but they are dearly wrong.  Good manners, at heart, are full of love and kindness.  They are the giving of self to ensure that another is not hurt or embarrassed.  Good manners are the smile and gentle hand that waves away the need for worry, when red wine is spilled upon your grandmothers tablecloth.  They are the distraction created to cover the embarrassment of another.  Good manners are a giving, a giving that time and fashion will never make appear dated.

There are few words more welcomed than please and thank you.

My husband travels a great deal for business and, when I have the pleasure of joining him, I am always disturbed by the rudeness of hotel guests.  Rarely do I hear a please or a thank you given upon a request or fulfillment of a special request.  I shudder to think of how many times I've overheard someone say, "Well, it's their job."  Yes, it is their job, but everyone deserves to be asked nicely and thanked for doing their job well.  Of course, we all have encountered less than helpful or polite people on the job, but I always try to be extra polite to them...after all, I do not know what the earlier part of their day entailed and  perhaps my kindness will give them the courage to face the rest of the day.

Good manners are contagious...
hopefully yours will be pleasantly catching.

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"Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not." ~ Mark Twain