Saturday, October 20, 2018
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To observe or not to observe etiquette

Are manners out of style these days?  I am who I am. Trump is Trump. Duterte is Duterte.


These statements imply, “I am a true, sincere person. This is me.” Are these self-proclaimed actuations worth their salt?

Good manners are always in style. They change with demographics and time, but they never disappear according to Dana May Casperson, author of Power Etiquette.


People think, mistakenly, that etiquette means you have to suppress your individual differences, lose your unique individuality, or intentionally re-brand yourself.

Gregarious being

Etiquette is all about human social behavior. It is a little social contract we agree on to restrain some of our more provocative impulses, in return for living harmoniously in a community, according to Judith Martin, journalist, author and etiquette authority.


No one can be “sincere” forever only to oneself. Not even a president, unless he is a non-gregarious being.

“I don’t care about etiquette” simply denotes a lack of understanding about etiquette, confusing etiquette with non-conformism.

Others erroneously think etiquette as some kind of ritual for snobs. The rub is, when you throw etiquette away, bad behavior and even violence can follow, e.g., road rage.


Yet, learning the “rules” of etiquette is easy. It’s 80 percent common sense and 20 percent kindness.

Costs nothing


Today, we truly need etiquette back. The whole country, all of humanity, needs civility. Why don’t we have it? It does not cost anything. No funding, no legislation involved. It is all commonsense and kindness.

The willingness to restrain oneself is one solution. Imagine if people only tweeted their thoughts politely.  Some people want other people to be polite to them, but they insist on the freedom to be impolite to others. Civility does not work that way.

Civility requires some training in restraint, similar perhaps to the “delayed gratification” studied by Walter Mishel through his famed marshmallow challenge test among four-year-old-children in the ‘60s, to identify who may succeed or fail in future life. Would this work with seventyish men? Apparently it could.



Etiquette is all about harmoniously relating to others. It is the art of dealing with others, armed with a correct attitude. Positive attitudes exist in everyone’s psyche. Attitude is a personality trait we continue to develop through life.

According to social psychologists Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzien, attitude is a learned, relatively enduring pre-disposition to respond in consistently favorable or unfavorable ways to certain people, groups, ideas, or situations.

Parents should be teaching etiquette early in a child’s life. “Darling, now do not pull the dog’s tail. How would you feel if the dog pulled your tail?” If the kid retorts, I do not have a tail, so what do I care?,” the teaching clearly needs to begin.

Formal education seldom includes much training in proper etiquette, experts remind us, and some recommend it should be an integral part of the academe. We learn manners from our family, friends and colleagues.

Manners are skills that need constant practice and updating. To observe or not to observe etiquette is an individual choice, unless of course one has some kind of psychopathological issue. Tweet that.

Dr. Aggie Carson-Arenas is a specialist in Clinical Psychology and a Behavior Analyst Specialist in Nevada. He is  an educator, researcher, clinician, consultant and a published author.

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TAGS: civility, Dana May Casperson, etiquette, good manners, Judith Martin, positive behavior, Power Etiquette, right conduct
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