Posts Tagged 'Manners'

Free to be you and me? Yes, but there’s a but.

The subject of what to wear and how to behave at work can be a tricky one, especially in our increasingly casual and laissez-fair world. So, I was interested to read that Ernst & Young decided it was a subject that needed to be addressed. The firm of accountants recently hired a consultant to run seminars for more than 400 women on staff about appropriate clothes, make-up, jewellery and colours for the workplace. Not to be outdone, Leeds Metropolitan University has put together an etiquette guide for new members of staff, which points out that, among other things, licking one’s knife at the table is a definite no-no.

The impact that our clothing and actions have on those around us, and indeed ourselves, is something I find fascinating. What I find even more fascinating is that some people think it’s inconsequential; either that it doesn’t really matter or that they should just be allowed to ‘be who they are’, no matter what. It’s a fair point in some ways, we should be allowed to be who we are, but there’s a but. There’s always a but. In this case the but is that first impressions matter.

If you choose to dress or behave in a manner that is completely outside the norm of your given environment – too casual or too formal – then you’re relying on others’ abilities to see through a veneer (sloppy, aloof, indifferent, etc.), in order to finally get to ‘you’ and recognise your value. In an ideal world most people might take the time and make the effort do that. In our world, first impressions count, and although we should (and to our collective credit, sometimes do) make the effort to get past the veneers – be they good, bad or indifferent – we are often too busy or too tired to do so.

Anne Freden, chair of Ernst & Young’s women’s network said of the training, “The firm doesn’t view this as something that’s nice to have, but as an integral part of business strategy. There is a huge number of capable and talented women at Ernst & Young looking to maximise their achievement in the firm and in their career, and looking for the skills and tips and tools to do that.”

Although it may not always be our preference to conform to the ‘norm’ or to the corporate life, it’s to our benefit to make the effort in the first instance rather than relying on others to make a double effort in the end.

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‘That one…’

I still maintain what I wrote at the bottom of my very first post: this blog isn’t meant to be about politics, it’s about manners, modern life and how we mix the two. However, given the type of politics to which we are being subjected and given the fact that our manners speak volumes about how we conduct ourselves, in public and in private, I can’t ignore Senator McCain’s two word remark from the second debate.

Some are suggesting that referring to Senator Obama as ‘that one’ was a slip of the tongue; I suggest that a politician with Senator McCain’s experience doesn’t make that kind of mistake.

Referring to a person as ‘that one’ insults and dehumanises them – if this is how Senator McCain treats people with whom he is in opposition then he is a dangerous person to have as the leader of a nation. Senator McCain is fond of pointing out that Senator Obama would sit down with the leaders of potentially hostile nations without pre-conditions. More worrying, in my view, is that based on past behaviour and the unshielded contempt he showed for his opponent, Senator McCain wouldn’t sit down with them at all.

A man I greatly admired once said that ‘diplomacy is the art of letting the other guy have your way’. A clever, cunning and accurate description if ever there was one, but you can’t achieve that if you can’t at least mask your disdain and refrain from insulting the other person or group.

Manners not only matter but they tell us a great deal about the person behind them and how that person may behave in the future. Given his past behaviour I’m fairly confident that I don’t want to see what a McCain future holds.

Name calling

Think what you might of Sarah Palin’s politics, she has a great deal to learn about manners.

Let me set the scene: Governor Palin and Senator Biden meet in the centre of the stage before the debate and as they shake hands the Governor leans towards the Senator and says, “Hey, can I call you Joe?”.

Let me get a few things out of the way right off the bat: this is not about politics, it’s about politeness; it’s not about age, sex or status, it’s about manners.

There are few things in our lives that truly belong to us and that are ours to oversee as we would like, our name is one of those things. I have no doubt that Senator Biden would have happily offered Governor Palin the use of his first name, but it was bad manners for the Governor to ask for its use, and particularly bad manners to do so in public.

And no, it wasn’t folksy charm, it was rude. It was designed to put her opponent on the back foot, which some would say is ok in a debate. But even in a debate, the rules of polite behaviour apply. It was also designed so that she would come across as ‘one of the people’, which I find extraordinary. I would think that most people would want their potential Vice President to behave in a way that they could use as an example to their children – since when did lack of manners or education become a badge of honour?

[A note about this blog: it’s new. It isn’t intended to be about Sarah Palin, or politics, it’s intended to be about life and manners and how we deal with both – if politics finds its way into this blog it’s because it’s crossed into that sphere.]