(Photo: Library of Congress: William Leroy Jacobs, 1869-1917)
This week is National Etiquette Week. Who would have known? Is it printed on school calendars, or calendars that municipalities and other government agencies use? Is it announced by the mainstream media or even the alternative media? Is it burning up the blogosphere? Is it listed on any of Google's "Hot" lists? Are there magazine articles with cute ideas for celebrating with your family? Are there any Hallmark greeting cards? Well why not?
After all, in 1996 the tiny nation of Singapore began the World Kindness Movement (which incidentally has spread around the world, celebrated in the US through "The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation") with the vision of preparing Singaporeans for the 21st century by becoming a gracious society.
It makes sense. Much like traffic lights control the flow of autos reducing crashes, and Roberts Rules bring order to meetings increasing productivity, etiquette can bring security and satisfaction to social encounters.
The press kit for National Etiquette Week 2010 lets us know that this event began with Children's Etiquette Consultant Sandra Morisset as a self-assessment on the current status of civility in the US.
This week is a valuable opportunity to raise awareness of courtesy, civility, kindness, and manners as well as rallying more people to act with good manners in their everyday life."
Just exactly where do we as Americans go to finishing school these days? When chewing gum was on the list of the top 2 things teachers worried about, it was easy to work on please, thank you, don't say anything if you can't say something nice, etc.
When families ate dinner together, it was easy to work on inculcating compromise, give and take, kindness vs rudeness, and other intangibles that our social institutions don't have time for anymore.
Now, the ever present TV and other media are filled with celebrity voyeurism, angry political rhetoric, finger pointing, and hundreds of reasons why we should be afraid to get up every morning. Now, our roles models come primarily from the sports and entertainment world, our instructors from mass media, our norms from the behavior practiced in our work places.
And much like kindness was a contagious concept in Singapore, rudeness is just as contagious. A 2009 study done by Dr. Amir Erez, a University of Florida management professor found that
simply observing discourteous behavior erodes fellow employees' ability to think creatively, solve problems, be good team players and even goes so far as to make them harbor deep, dark and destructive thoughts.
It's up to you - it's always up to you. Become an acolyte of civility, a purveyor of kindness, a practitioner of manners. You say "huh - I don't even have time to read my books on time management."
This one's easy. Every two weeks, choose one of Dr. P.M. Forni's twenty-five "Rules of Civility", tape a copy to each mirror in the house, say it to yourself when you leave in the morning and when you come home in the evening. Remind your kids when you drop them off at school and pick them up in the afternoon. Have your family help you be accountable - "oh dear, did you have an opportunity to pay attention today?"
- Pay attention.
- Acknowledge others.
- Think the best.
- Be inclusive.
- Speak kindly.
- Don't speak ill.
- Accept and give praise.
- Respect even a subtle "no".
- Respect other's opinions.
- Mind your body.
- Be agreeable.
- Keep it down (& rediscover silence).
- Respect other people's time.
- Respect other people's space.
- Apologize earnestly.
- Assert yourself.
- Avoid personal questions.
- Care for your guests.
- Be a considerate guest.
- Think twice before asking for favors.
- Refrain from idle complaints.
- Accept and give constructive criticism.
- Respect the environment and be gentle to animals.
- Don't shift responsibility and blame.
That's it. You'll not only change yourself, you'll change the world.