Since at least kindergarten we have all been taught to be nice, share with others, and not talk when the adults were talking. We were told to not talk with our mouths full, not to be crude, and not to scream when we didn’t get what we wanted. As we got older we learned not to dress or act or talk in certain ways. We learned not to gossip, and we learned not to cheat on exams. Behaving in certain ways became second nature. We learned to have good manners and conduct ourselves properly.

Why was it so important that we learned to behave this way? Was it so that we didn’t embarrass ourselves? Was it so that we made a good impression on others? Did we train ourselves into socially correct behavior because that was just the way things were? The answers to all these questions is “yes”, but there is more to it than that. Good manners, or in other words, guidelines to proper social conduct, are important because they show our respect and consideration for others. When one behaves in a way that shows they value those they are in company with, it is very appealing and invites respect. People like to feel that their ideas and customs and their very status as human beings are honored. Thus, the time tested and true “Golden Rule”: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Think about it for a moment. When in the course of our lives, we run into someone who is not well mannered, why is their behavior irritating? Usually someone who would be deemed rude placing themselves before others. They say whatever they want to say, whenever they want to, without thinking of the feelings of others. They get annoyed when forced to wait, as if those causing the delay are of less importance than they. This behavior is aggravating because innately, all of mankind wishes to be respected and recognizes the right of another to that same respect. Someone who is well-mannered is considerate of those they come into contact with. They are patient when faced with a delay, and tactfully handle delicate situations. Even when in direct opposition with another, a well-bred person will gracefully and politely work things out to the best of their ability, without blatantly ignoring or dismissing the opinion of their peer. This respect for others is inviting, as compared to the repellent nature of the former example.

Just as many words are strung together to form a sentence, so are manners woven together to form etiquette. Clearly, various occasions may necessitate more casual or more formal mannerisms. Yet, if one behaves appropriately no matter what the occasion or company, they possess that gem of a quality: proper etiquette. Etiquettical conversation, and actions, set one apart and allow them to be respected and well liked almost universally.

By showing consideration for others and respect for their ideas and opinions, we encourage them to treat us in that way. When we act in a well mannered way, and have proper etiquette, we not only save ourselves from embarrassment, and make a good impression on others, but we also give out the kind of treatment that everyone deserves and that we ourselves would enjoy. Having good manners and etiquette creates a well ordered, kind, and respectful environment. No wonder mankind has deemed socially appropriate behavior as critical since time began.

Submitted by Laura Underwood, a Gateway scholar.