Mantra for modern etiquette


No matter what day it is, and for no reason in particular, there are always fresh flowers on the table at my friend Rose’s house. Piping hot stove-perked coffee is always served in beautiful old china cups and even store- bought cookies are served on a fancy plate. “Don’t fuss Rose,” I always say. “It’s no trouble” is her constant reply. The truth is, she does fuss, and quite honestly, I’ve grown accustomed to it and would be disappointed if she didn’t. When Rose goes to the trouble to choose a china cup, to pair it with a charming old linen napkin, or to buy cream – just because she knows I prefer it to milk in my coffee, it makes me feel special. The fact is I’m not special. Anyone and everyone who comes to Rose’s home gets this royal treatment. We’re not special; Rose is special.

These days anyone who “bothers”, who takes a few minutes and goes to any trouble, is special. That we’re all busy and tired and stressed has become an excuse to be uncivilized, lazy even. Standing and picking at the food in the pots on the stove; grabbing a bite as we rush out the door; eating out of the container the food comes in; for many of us putting the potato chips in a bowl is too much “bother” these days.

There is no question that making an effort takes time. It is absolutely true that sometimes people won’t even notice when you do the little extras. But sometimes they will, and they’ll feel special. They will remember the gesture and come to appreciate it, maybe even come to expect it. Would that be so bad?

What’s more, exhibiting good manners and giving a little extra of yourself will make you feel good, too. Consistently choosing to exhibit good manners says a lot about your personal standard. I realize now, for example, that Rose bothers to put out the fancy plates, just like she bothers to dress nicely and to keep a neat house because it is her way of respecting herself. In the process, she earns the respect of others and she succeeds in making the everyday special, something she has done for 80+ years.

Experts suggest it takes only six weeks to make a behaviour a habit. Why not choose one small thing; maybe it’s never serving food in the package it came in, maybe it’s always eating at the table (even pizza), maybe it’s making a point of turning the telephone and television off from 6:00 – 7:00pm every evening... it doesn’t matter what you choose, it just matters that you do it. Choose one small, everyday thing and make it special.