Monday, 20 August 2012

What about setting examples?

I hear a lot of “Yes, there’s a real need for etiquette and good manners training, ‘so and so’ really needs it”. Then they stop there. The following thought that’s never voiced out loud is “but not me, I know everything I need to know about the subject”. Believe me; I get this from 75% of the people I talk to. No one admits that everybody, including themselves benefits from a conscious effort to make manners a fixture in their lives. I don’t think people are aware of the impact of failing to do so.
Last week I went to the closing sale at White’s Supermarket in Warwick. Not an unexpected scenario – big crowds and long checkout lines. From what I could observe, people were generally well mannered. I even noticed people sharing shopping carts with strangers, an admirable thing to do. As I stood in the checkout line chatting with others close to me we watched a nicely dressed elderly woman glance in our direction then inserted herself into the line several people ahead of us. I know she heard the comments a few people made about what she’d done. She made a few more sideways glances at the people behind her then ignored us all. One could say that as a senior citizen she should be respected and I agree with that. What I had issue with was the way she knowingly and intentionally disrespected everyone else by not asking if anyone minded what she was doing or even making an excuse for her actions . Even a smile and shy ‘thank you’ would probably have been jokingly accepted by others patiently waiting in line. I can pretty much ‘read’ people and I’m willing to bet that she would be quite vocal at injustices visited on her by other people. This was not a life threatening situation that required urgency and she walked right into the line displaying no disabilities (unless she considered her age to be the disability). Was it worth the 20 minutes she saved? Bermuda is a small place and though people in that line may not know her personally, her actions will likely be the first thing they remember when they see her again. Already a negative if she wants to make a good first impression some day. So what she said was:
  • ·         I’m better than you.
  • ·         You’re not important enough to ask permission to displace you.
  • ·         Do not deserve my respect.
  • ·         This is how to get what you want - just take it. 

A really bad example for children observing this. Probably aware of all the above she just didn’t care. And that’s the root of the problem – being so wrapped up in your own needs you don’t care about others. It’s like crime. If you get away with it once and it’s easy to convince yourself its normal behavior. You do it over and over. And there are some people who will use her example as an excuse to behave the same way. Small indiscretions add up, impacting the people around you and the moral fabric of society.
Trudy Snaith, Etiquette Consultant   

Thursday, 5 April 2012

I have noticed that we are often very opinionated about what other people should be doing. And on the subject of manners we are very vocal about the lack of them in other people, especially if we don’t like the way they treat us. Heaven forbid we even consider we may be at fault or there is room for improvement on our part. To imply, even unintentionally that there is a shortfall in the manners department of a person is enough to send that individual into a simmering indignation that is difficult to diffuse. But here is the secret about manners and etiquette – it only takes one person to start the ball rolling in the direction of improving the outcome of any interaction. I’ll give you an example that could have been easily overlooked if I wasn't an observer of the actions of people in relation to etiquette.
Last week as I was driving into Hamilton along Reid Street extension, I approached the junction of Reid and King Street. As usual, my mind was on deadlines and the amount of work I had to complete that day and I’m certain the expression on my face reflected that. An elderly woman stepped onto the crosswalk and began to cross the street. She had a walking stick and her progress was slow. That drew my attention directly to her instead of what was may have been happening elsewhere.  When she completely passed in front of my car, she turned to look at me and said “thank you” before continuing on her way. I could not help but smile at her in return. Common courtesy. That is all it takes. She was of a generation where those types of courtesies were important and a part of daily life. It brightened my day that a person would express gratitude for something I had done even though I was required by law to do it. In other words, she didn’t have to say anything, but she did. That interaction improved my frame of mind and made me wonder what I could do for the next person I met, that would be just as nice. It only takes one person to start the ball rolling.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

We can go back
When people discover I am an etiquette consultant, the most common sentiment expressed to me is nostalgia for the way things ‘used to be’ in Bermuda. Part of Bermudas charm was always its people and how they interacted with others. I wouldn’t say that we were unique but we did make the kind of favorable impression that Bermuda became renowned for. I am the type of person who sees a glass as half full, not half empty and I am convinced that it is possible to go back and draw upon the positive things in our past that enriched our lives. The evidence is all around us and I invite you to join me on the journey to rediscover Bermuda as the enriching experience it ‘should’ be and ‘can’ become again.
I’ll look for examples in our daily lives where attention to etiquette, good manners and civility can make a difference and comment on them. I welcome feedback from readers with examples of their own and offer my advice. 
Children in restaurants. Everyone enjoys going out to eat and children are no different. I cannot recall ever seeing a child being reluctantly dragged into a restaurant. Like everyone else, they are excited about going and look forward to new experiences. Last week, I took my class of seven, 6 ½ year olds to a well known 5 star restaurant for dinner and one parents comment to me was that I was brave to do it. But it is a learning experience for the children and I never hesitate to include it in my program. There is no magic formula to making this work for children. It’s just simple preparation and realistic expectations. If you tell them ahead of time what they can expect and what is expected of them, you have a much better chance of compliance. A basic rule of good manners is to consider the feelings of others in whatever we do. Dining out should be a pleasant experience and everyone must do their best to make certain they are not responsible for making it otherwise. So here are a few pointers for all ages that set the stage for getting us back to our etiquette roots:
·         Be on time.
·         Remember what you’ve been told about ‘restaurant voices’.
·         Do not make unreasonable demands of wait staff. 
·         And for children, know the child you are offering this experience to well enough to recognize their limit. When they’ve reached it – it’s time to go. There will always be another time.

There is not a doubt in my mind of the positive impact adherence to these pointers can have. The restaurant proprietor becomes open to accepting reservations that include children because he knows it is possible for them to behave in a manner that will not disturb others. Diners noticing well behaved children will be inclined to consider including their own children the next time they dine out. Doing things as a family enriches our lives. Children gain from the experience of meeting expectations set for them and learn how behavior influences others view of a person.
I see restaurant behavior that is less than ideal all the time but I know it is good manners not to comment on it. I’ll only smile in hopes that it will be enough help the person remember what they should be doing.                                                                                    Trudy Snaith, Etiquette Consultant  

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Selecting the title of this blog was a toss up between 'Etiquette Sincerely' and 'Etiquette - Seriously?' Thus speaks the state of etiquette today. Do we want it or not? The truth is that I believe we need it, more so now than ever. But I also believe that drawing attention to the way things 'should be' will be more successful in bringing etiquette back from the edge of the cliff  than anything else. Comments welcome.