Updated: Apr 20, 2021
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The mere mention of etiquette may bring on feelings of dread for some. It might even make you think of the bourgeoisie or pretentious behavior. Etiquette is merely conducting yourself in a way that does not offend those around you. The principles of etiquette are timeless. However, manners, the way we express those techniques are ever-evolving.
Manners at the core are guidelines based on common sense and the fundamental principles of etiquette: consideration, respect, and integrity. Being gracious and exhibiting kindness helps create a comfortable environment for those around you. In today's social arena, manners are often situational and cultural. Different cultures have varying expectations regarding social interactions.
Consideration and kindness
When reflecting on what is considered proper etiquette, it is imperative to consider how situations and behaviors will affect everyone involved. When we are thoughtful about our actions, it is then that others are positively affected. Daily we have numerous interactions with others. Rather at work, a passerby on the street, or waitstaff, each interaction affects us as well as the individual we encounter. These common courtesies should not be taken for granted.
Consideration is an understanding and awareness of how actions and circumstances affect everyone concerned. It is often consideration that urges us to perform acts of kindness for friends and strangers. As we consider how our actions affect others, we should also remember not to allow our mood to dictate how we treat others. It reminds us that it is never okay to be rude or unkind to someone simply because we may be having an unpleasant day.
We display respect when we show that we honor and value others with our actions, communication, and appearance. We must be indiscriminate with respect for others regardless of their race, culture, or creed. We observe this principle in conversations by not demeaning and degrading others for their opinions and beliefs and not laughing at or encouraging offensive jokes. Refusing to discriminate against others and being inclusive is a form of respect. Although others may think differently from us, we have to remember that they deserve our respect. We show respect by being intentional about things such as being punctual, dressing appropriately, and being present in the moment.
Equally important is self-respect. Someone who respects themself is fully aware that they are enough while also realizing the importance of boundaries and requiring respect in their relationships. Remember that being respectful does not require that you be a doormat or a pushover. Self-respect produces confidence in oneself that allows us to respect the boundaries of others. He or she values themself and holds their values and integrity in high regard.
When we choose to be considerate of and respect others, we will also choose to be sincere and truthful. Choosing, to be honest, is a way to honor ourselves and others. Even the smallest lie shows a lack of consideration and respect for both you and the other individual.
Character reveals itself
An etiquette guideline can't address every potential circumstance one might face. Throughout life, we will have innumerable opportunities to exhibit graciousness and kindness. How we handle these opportunities will be the ultimate demonstration of character. It is the small acts of kindness that will significantly impact the lives of others.