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Courtesy is the mother of convention

All socially acceptable behaviour is rooted in culture. As a society develops, somewhere along the way the majority of people agree upon acceptable ways for everyone to behave. In many cultures, this is also typically determined by class level and ethnicity.

Within civilization the world over, good manners have always been important. Manners and civilization have always been inherent in every society. Every civilization has had its own code of etiquette, its own foundation of courtesy. Societies in diverse regions and states have different cultures. What is acceptable behaviour in one may not be so in another.


However, the interdependent global environment of the 21st century has blurred divisions between cultures and diverse groups, and the basics of good manners and etiquette are merging to reflect a common belief in the importance of showing general respect for others.

Socialization seeks to encourage desirable behaviour and discourage objectionable behaviour in humans. What is desirable and what is not is where the social culture comes into the picture. Social culture is exercised in many ways to ensure that people conform to accepted patterns of behaviour. This behaviour forms the social norm.

Breaking a societyís norms usually invite negative responses such as disapproving looks, ridicule, abuse, isolation, disciplinary action, punishment or even violence. If you donít know how to play the role expected of you, you could be labelled mad. Adhering to social norms and playing your roles correctly could be rewarded with popularity or even a high status in your society.

Manners and etiquette rules from the past based on common courtesy and human respect still seem to apply, and in many ways, those rules are more applicable than ever because communication is so readily available. When it comes to proper social behaviour, core values based on basic consideration of others are what is considered acceptable in most social settings. People often judge a personís character and status by his or her behaviour in public. Itís not only polite to have good manners and etiquette, but itís also crucial for getting along in most social settings.

Following acceptable manners and etiquette can also make a difference when it comes to business and moving up the ladder at work. Take manners and etiquette classes if youíre not sure about proper social protocol when youíre interacting with others.

Shaking hands

Although sensitivity training can teach you how to empathize with others in your immediate environment, manners and etiquette classes that teach you cultural awareness are particularly valuable in an international environment, especially if you work for a global organization.

For example, certain international schools offer training in how to address others in foreign countries and what to avoid saying or doing to keep from offending international colleagues.

Etiquette is simply a code of behaviour based on consideration and thoughtfulness. It is practical advice for everyday living, providing a sense of order. It is a sensitive awareness of the needs of others. Etiquette is not optional among civilized people. However, the concept of appropriate social behaviour is actually an evolving system of guidelines intended to facilitate comfortable and enjoyable interactions between individuals and groups.

As the speed and amount of interaction has increased with the use of technology and global travel, the need to understand and use social manners has become even more critical. Using email and working collaboratively with colleagues in other countries means many more opportunities to offend or be offended. Despite this trend, social manners and etiquette are still warranted and expected in all situations.

There are no hard and fast rules or laws on the subject of etiquette. In a nut shell, having good manners is showing courtesy and consideration for other people at all times in all circumstances, putting yourself in their shoes and thereby not being offensive, rude or disrespectful. Manners have evolved from customs, protocols and conventions.

This process is common to all countries and cultures and has developed over the ages to ensure a harmonious society. They are even enshrined in the Ten Commandments!

These rules differ between countries and cultures but nevertheless are there to ensure a peaceful coexistence between people thus creating a society that respects the rights of others. This is the foundation of order and trust as opposed to chaos and crime.

Cultural differences in social manners and etiquette go beyond language and the question of shaking hands, kissing or bowing.. Though most rules of social manners are unwritten, increasing global interaction has given rise to books, videos and classes that instruct users on how to be respectful of and show interest in other cultures.

Values, norms and roles make social life easier. When one knows what is expected in different social situations, one can behave in a confident manner. Shyness and awkwardness usually result when one is not sure how one is expected to behave in a particular situation.

Good manners and etiquette are not complicated. Anyone can demonstrate courtesy and consideration for others, the stuff of which good manners are made, without knowing the specific rules of etiquette. And no one is born knowing those rules. They are learned gradually, at home, in school, at work, and in everyday contacts with both friends and strangers.

Our manners are only a surface indication of what is underneath. What you are is more important than what you appear to be. More important than which fork to use at a dinner party is the type of dinner partner you are.

Are you enjoyable to be with? Do you make your dinner partners feel important, valued, appreciated and comfortable? Courtesy and etiquette are the underlying principles for behaviour among civilized people based on respect, decorum and ethics.

People in any society donít give a tinkerís cuss of how much you know. They donít care how rich you are. They just need to know how much you care and respect them.

And that type of consideration about others is what manners are all about. It will improve your relationships with people immeasurably when you show them that you care about them! Courtesy then is the mother of convention. Manners and Etiquette are what distinguish us from the apes, and a good many of our fellow human beings too.

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