That’s a great question! Many people think that etiquette is obsolete and manners are a thing of the past. Before we dive into that let’s talk about what manners and etiquette are. We use these two words interchangeably when they are actually two different things.
Consider etiquette as a code of behavior or guidelines to help us maneuver social situations. We use etiquette in just about every part of our lives without realizing it. (e.g., rules for driving, sports, etc….) Manners are how we live out these codes of behavior; how we treat one another. They can change over time and are different across cultures and countries.
Now that we know the difference between manners and etiquette, do they still matter?
I believe they do, now more than ever.
As of this writing, we’ve recently come out of a worldwide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve been sitting in front of our computer screens for the last three years dressed from the waist up to a “T”, while the waist down was more pajama bottoms with tea stains. Our interpersonal skills have become a little rusty from all those virtual meetings. Now that we’ve stepped out from behind the screens, our basic manners, like saying “Hello” to a co-worker when they walk into the room, are missing to some extent.
Manners and etiquette are not only for in-person interactions. Before Covid, we interacted with people from across the globe through social media and online platforms. As we’ve continued virtual meetings in many aspects of our lives, we are taking those global connections even deeper. To do this successfully we need to have a certain level of emotional intelligence. Having a self-awareness of how our actions and words affect others allows us to interact with anyone, without offending or insulting. Self-awareness is one of the core teachings in etiquette.
While practicing good manners allows us to be courteous, thoughtful, and civil toward each other. Knowledge of proper etiquette allows us to feel comfortable. When we know the code of behavior or “rules” in social situations we can be at ease and confident. This allows us to focus on our interactions with others, rather than what fork we should be using or which water glass is ours.
One of the reasons I’m passionate about etiquette is because it helps me be more self-confident in certain social situations. My passion for this became evident when we were all stuck at home during the height of the pandemic lockdowns. While everyone was taking up a new hobby or learning to bake sourdough bread, I started sharing tips about manners and etiquette on TikTok. I soon realized my content was resonating with people. It gave me great satisfaction to help people with their etiquette questions or dilemmas. I decided to become a certified etiquette trainer because I wanted to help people have that same confidence in social situations that I do.
The bottom line is that having good manners and knowing proper etiquette is not snobbish or elitist or stuffy or boring. Instead, they allow us to live in a society where we care about one another and our effect on them.
So yes, manners and etiquette still matter.
Suzy Lins is a certified etiquette trainer located in Southern California. Educating on manners and etiquette to help people gain confidence to master business and social situations is the core of her teaching.