All that stuff your Mom told you about being polite is true. You can never go wrong by acting like a lady or gentleman. I try to act as a gentleman at all times.
My friend Sharon Hill, author of The Wild Woman’s Guide to Etiquette, makes a great point about the difference between manners and etiquette. Manners are about kindness and caring about other people. Etiquette is protocol, rules of behavior that you need to learn and use. Manners come from your heart, etiquette comes from your head. Ladies and gentlemen are both well mannered and follow the rules of etiquette.
If you know and follow the basic rules of etiquette, you won’t look foolish in social situations. You will be admired for demonstrating class and confidence. Proper etiquette can help you get ahead in business because you will create a positive impression. Sometimes, you won’t even know that people are watching, but believe me someone usually is.
Manners, on the other hand, distinguish you as a caring person, someone who values every human being. Well mannered people treat every person they meet with a kindness that reinforces their self worth. You can know and follow all the rules, but still not be well mannered. While I think it’s important to know and follow the rules, if I had to choose between manners and etiquette, manners would win every time.
Handwritten thank you notes are a great way to distinguish yourself as a lady or gentleman. They demonstrate both good manners and proper etiquette. Here are three tips for writing great thank you notes. 1) Write legibly. 2) Always identify the gift you received – be specific. Your note will be more personal this way. 3) Always mention how you plan on using the gift. You can create all sorts of positive personal impact with thank you notes.
These days there are companies who will do what I call “faux handwritten notes.” They take a sample of your handwriting and then use it to create messages that they will send on your behalf. In my opinion, these cards are better than an email, but they still don’t substitute for a handwritten note. Two reasons: first, you still have to compose the message and e mail it to the vendor; and second, while these cards look pretty good, they still don’t have the intensely personal feel of a note written by hand.
As with most things, there is one rule of etiquette that I always follow. I always do whatever I can to help the people around me feel comfortable. Ladies and gentlemen make sure that others feel comfortable.
For example, when you are dining with others, you may know that your water glass is on the right and that your bread and butter plate is on the left. Other people may not know this. So if someone uses your bread plate, don’t say “Hey, that’s mine – yours is over there.” Just place your roll on your dinner plate. Being right is no excuse for embarrassing someone else.
Remember, friends can help take you where you want to go. Etiquette and manners will help you make those friends.