Those of you familiar with my occasional ranting on the subject will know that I have ‘a thing’ about decent manners. I’m not talking about the laborious English process that has you talking about the weather as the house burns around you, nor the baffling French protocols involving vous voudrais, how many times to kiss an acquaintance and when it is polite to sleep with your hostess’ husband … No I am talking more about the common or garden variety – the one that has you thanking people, saying please, returning calls, letting people through doors ahead of you, respondevou-ing ‘yes, please’ or ‘no thank you’ rather than waiting to see if something better comes along, then honouring your social engagements, calling to cancel rather than sending a text etc.
I spotted an article in Vogue US about Liv Tyler and her grandmother having written a book on manners and it made perfect sense. I’ve met Liv a couple of times and, despite her rock’n’roll provenance, she was always charming and gracious. Turns out that her maternal grandmother, Dorothea Johnson is the founder of the prestigious “Protocol School of Washington” and best-selling author of “The Little Book of Etiquette”. Johnson has been preparing various politicos for lives as Diplomats since the 1970s, Tyler lived with Dorothea when she was young – and it shows.
Modern Manners, Tools to Take You to the Top is simply written, clear and, well, modern: no twee nonsense or passive aggressive tone. The book’s central philosophy is that the Golden Rule of Kindness and Courtesy covers all eventualities. You just need to make it a way of life.
Johnson is clear-eyed and practical: “Good Manners will get you where you want to go,” she says, “faster than a speeding BMW.” I thought that was sweetly old-fashioned – and it holds true today. So here for your joy and delectation today are some tips from Modern Manners, Tools to Take You to the Top.
√ Do be discrete and avoid jokes or off colour remarks that may reflect negatively on your company
√ Do take the high-road when you are tempted to send a heated e-mail – wait until you calm down. then project civility and call the person you wish to address
√ Do speak to your colleague in person instead of sending multiple emails
X Don’t overuse BCC (Blind Carbon Copy), hoping to keep the recipient list secret – it’s like allowing someone to eavesdrop.
√ Do have family/children turn off phones during meals
X Don’t let children take phones to school if it is not allowed
X Don’t answer your phone while you are already talking with someone. (My PET peeve – and if it happens to me while being served in a shop, I can become quite incandescent.)
√ DO Choose a professional profile picture.
X Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t reply to a Friend Request – they may want to have a small group of friends – or if you are a work colleague, they may want to keep work and private lives separate
X Don’t provide a running commentary of an event you are attending. Be there and do that.
Most importantly: No matter what social network you are on, never disparage your job or your co-workers online. Both your current and future employers have the ability to pull up online information on you, and even a quick casual comment on a social network such as “I hate my job” during a stressful day can come back to haunt you.
I would also add – don’t post when you are angry or drunk. Don’t get into rows in the body of a post – if you want to address someone personally – inbox them. And finally – never ever discuss your sex life on-line or post pictures of yourself naked/having sex. Once they are up there. They are up there for good. And you are down shit-creek (sorry Dorothea) without a paddle.
(Image of Liv and Dorothea, copyright Liv Tyler. Image of Modern Manners found in the public domain. This post is not sponsored in any way.)