Minding P's and Q's

What are manners and why do they matter?  I believe the common misconception about politeness is that it’s simply a habit formed in our younger years, nothing more than the way we were taught to behave.  Over the years I’ve developed an interest in social graces; not just the practice of them, but the motivation behind it.  I've found that, while knowing how to set a table or write a thank you note is important (and something we’ll talk about in the future), the action itself is not the ultimate goal.  

Every time we go for dinner at my grandparents house, the table is set as if my Ninie and Heffie were expecting the Queen of England, not three rugrats and their parents.  This sparked a delighted curiosity in me.  Why would my grandmother take the time to get out Great-Uncle Malcolm’s heirloom china and the fancy glass pitcher?  I believe it’s because my grandmum knows the delight it creates in her guests to see the table dressed up on any given Tuesday night.  The glistening candles and the happy flower design on the plates created an inviting and pleasant atmosphere that would set anyone at ease.  Her goal was not to put on air of self-importance by using the fancy dishes, but rather to delight her guests and make them feel comfortable.

The queen of all things etiquette, Emily Post, puts it this way...

 “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”  

Emily gets to the heart of it - possessing good manners is not about presenting an image, it’s about putting others first.  When you are aware of others, and act according to that awareness, you are showing that you value them.  

As we strive to be ladies (and gentlemen, hi boys!) we must take the focus off of ourselves and place it on others.  Holding the door or writing a thank you note is insincere if you're doing it out of oblication.  Of course we ought to make it a habit to smile and hold the door for strangers, but let our intention behind it be more than hoping to come across as a friendly person.  Let us use our everyday interactions as ways to love and validate the people we run into.  

A lady (or a gentleman) is someone who realizes the value of other people through the way he or she acts.  All that they do is the manifestation of a heart that is outward-focused; a heart that understands the importance of expressing care for others.  This is what sets them apart - that others are more valuable than self.  Having good manners is one of many ways to show that you care.

Mary Grace

P.S.  The picture is from the beautiful day I had tea at The Plaza with Mum - note the poised and polite strangers in the background of the picture.  One must be very careful to mind their manners when dining in such a place as this. ;)