News and Articles

April 2004
Manners Do Matter - The Anniston Star

Is Etiquette a thing of the past?

I ask myself this question when walking out the door ahead of someone and it slams shut on me. When I carefully time my early arrival to a play or concert, yet other patrons blithely come in well after the performance begins, I ask the question.

I ask it while attending a lecture and I hear "Yea Alabama," "War Eagle," or a show tune on a cell phone (that doesn't belong to a doctor). When I'm with a friend and they stop to talk to a stranger and I am not introduced, I ask the question. Have you ever told your children, "I hope you don't act this way out in public?"

After teaching middle schoolers for 30 years, I can say with all honesty I have seen many things that make me cringe; but none more than the activities in the school lunch room.

A casual observer would surely think manners were suspended during lunch period. At mealtime, do parents allow their children to leave food remains on the table, plates, and utensils scattered about when they leave? What would you think of a crowd of people who left the meal tables unfit for anyone to follow them? First impressions are important but what you leave behind leaves a lasting impression.

Holding doors, throwing garbage in proper receptacles, and turning off our cell phones in libraries are not antiquated traditions at all. Respect for the privacy and dignity of others isn't antiquated, old-fashioned, or out-of-style---it is essential.

Does it hurt or anger you when you are treated rudely?

Of course it does.

Etiquette doesn't mean that you are better than everyone else, quite the opposite. It means you treat other people and their feelings with dignity and respect. The first impression you convey to others is usually the impression that stays with you, permanently. Put another way, etiquette is merely the ability to put others at ease. It is indeed cool to observe the Golden Rule.

We know etiquette is not a thing of the past, now let's talk about how good etiquette skills give you the upper hand in today's fiercely competitive arena where manners will distinguish you from the crowd. In a highly competitive society where there are many intelligent and capable people, manners and etiquette give you the edge that makes the difference between you and the person who is just as smart. From the playground to the boardroom, manners will only become more important as we get older. When you see someone who talks with their mouth full of food, leans on the table, and shovels food into their mouth, you know that a formal business lunch would spell disaster. Mumbled, shaky, and unsure introductions during the job interview, even a college interview, could put you behind the curve before the first achievement is ever offered up.

"Good manners are free, but they are also priceless." - Harvey Mackey.

I have received many questions on my web page and during my etiquette classes. Because there are many forms of etiquette, cell-phone etiquette, "netiquette" or internet etiquette, dining etiquette, making introductions and business etiquette, sports etiquette, and wedding etiquette, just to mention a few. Readers with questions on any etiquette situation may write Millie Chastain at 812 Chastain Road, Talladega, Ala.,35160 or email her at Millie Chastain is the Director of The Protocol School of Alabama, and conducts Etiquette classes and summer camps for students in Talladega, Sylacauga, Pell City, Jacksonville State University, and Atlanta, Georgia.

Remember "Your manners are always under examination, and by committees little suspected, awarding or denying you very high prizes when you least think it." Ralph Waldo Emerson