It’s true. Displaying good manners is one form of “packaging” that helps to create opportunities for us to contribute to society. The Collins English Dictionary defines “manners” in this way:
1. Social conduct
2. A socially acceptable way of behaving
Who defines “a socially acceptable way of behaving?” Generally it’s other people. In many instances, “manners” were determined many years, if not decades or centuries ago. Displaying good manners includes the following:
- Using words like please, thank you, excuse me, or I’m sorry—accompanied by actions that show that we are sincere.
- Using our bodies in a way that helps others feel safe and comfortable, and doesn’t draw negative attention to ourselves. This includes chewing with our mouth closed, keeping our hands to ourselves, staying seated or standing when expected, shaking hands or giving a hug to greet someone, politely covering a cough or a sneeze, and holding a door open to allow others to pass through before us, along with waiting our turn in other circumstances.
- Managing our emotions (excitement, anger, frustration, fear) effectively so that we and others can interact with each other successfully.
People do notice when we use good manners, even though they may not always comment on it. However, people are even more likely to notice when we do NOT use good manners, or when our “mannerisms” are more noticeable than our manners. The World English Dictionary defines a “mannerism” as “a distinctive and individual gesture or trait; idiosyncrasy.” While the connotation of mannerisms isn’t always negative, in our social coaching classes as my husband and I are teaching about the importance of “packaging,” we focus on positive manners that we need to increase, and negative mannerisms that we need to decrease. Mannerisms often draw negative attention to ourselves. Instead of noticing how hard we work, or how polite we are, people notice things like picking (noses, skin, etc.), chewing on things other than food, tapping pencils or bouncing a foot when we’re sitting, and my own weakness, saying, “Um…” when I’m doing public speaking!
My husband recently published a fun book called, The Pick-A-Roo! This is a true story from Steve’s own childhood, which describes a mannerism that drew people’s attention to his younger brother on the baseball field. “He did play the game of baseball quite well, but upon that point, no one would dwell…” This is a great resource for teaching about mannerisms, and helping young people and adults to laugh at our own idiosyncrasies, but also find ways to overcome them when necessary.
Manners and mannerisms are an important component of our packaging and how we present ourselves to others. “Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.” (Henry Ward Beecher)