Social graces, more popularly known as good manners and etiquette are not a “put-on” or “add-on” to one’s personality. It should be part of the character of a person.
“Manners”, as defined by Webster “are social conduct or rules of conduct, as shown in the prevalent customs; habitual deportment, especially with reference to polite conventions.” Consideration for others is the basis of good manners. Some questions you can use as guides before acting are “: Does it make people comfortable and happy?” “How does this action affect others?”
“Manners” are also based on past social customs. The conditions that caused these mannersto be proper no longer exist, but the manners continue to exist. An example given by Newton and Green in their book “How to Improve Your Personality” is the origin of the rule that a man should walk on the curb side of the street when he is with a woman. According to them this started during the “horse and buggy” days when the man’s staying along the curb protected the woman from the horses. For custom’s sake, however, this is still being observed.
Knowledge of good manners give people increased self-confidence. It comes from knowing what is expected of one in a given situation and of how to do with ease what is expected. When manners become second nature to a person, he increases his sense of security,poise, self-confidence, and self-respect. Manners make a difference with how people feel about you. In this way it becomes part of your personality because it, in turn, makes people react to you in a peculiar way.
Etiquette consists of an “act of rules of living in our society”. These rules make us more comfortable and reflect a feeling of what is right toward others. Only the most unusual person, for one reason or another, completely disregards rules of etiquette with impunity. This person, however, becomes a most uncomfortable one to be with.
The most widely read and most research volumes on etiquette are Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post. For questions on which fork or spoon to use at what occasion, you can refer to their voluminous books for guidance. Sometimes though, these are more suited to foreign situations, so proper adaptation based on common sense should be made.
note: Originally posted at triond.com under the same author.