Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Etiquette versus Manners

We all know just enough etiquette to cause us problems -- especially if there's a wedding involved. It seems that once the ring is on the bride-to-be's finger, somebody's mother or grandmother drags out the etiquette book, and the tensions start to build.

Speaking as the daughter of a woman who authored several etiquette books over the course of her professional lifetime, I will quote my mother. "Etiquette is protocol, and most people don't really give a damn about how things were done in the royal courts for hundreds of years. But manners are what make it possible for ordinary people to deal with each other more comfortably."

Etiquette used to be (and probably still is) what divided the social classes. The great unwashed was not versed in the subtle nuances of "proper behavior." Manners are the small actions that convey respect and smooth interaction between people.

When you're planning any kind of event, rely less on what the etiquette books dictate that you do, and more on what your sense of kindness and compassion tell you should be done. (But write those thank you notes by hand! It's still a no-no to email them.)

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