How Has Etiquette Changed & What is the Etiquette for Today's Woman?
An Interview With an Etiquette Professional
Throughout the year, I receive numerous requests for etiquette advice from writers. Many wonder if etiquette has change much in the last fifty years and what those changes are. Some even wonder if etiquette is important at all. What follows are my responses to an inquiry about women’s social graces in today’s world.
What has changed; what remains the same; how should a woman act in a world full of smart phones, distractions and evolving gender roles?
For the last few generations we women have been trying to find our place alongside men. We wanted and want to feel as if we are equal. This led us more into the workplace and less in the home. This is not a negative, don’t get me wrong. However, if we consider the teaching of our children the finer skills not taught in schools, it could be viewed as such. After all, there was no one home to teach manners, social skills, and proper etiquette.
Children really don't learn these skills anywhere else besides home. Well, besides in classes such as mine. Even still, no classes compare to the daily interaction with parents. So consider that we have had at least 30 years of women trying to compete with men in the workplace. This has created generations of people without social skills and basic manners.
The tide is turning toward the well-mannered.
Interestingly though, times are changing yet again. All of a sudden--and it does seem sudden--both genders appear to be very interested in old-fashion manners, as is evident by the rising number of etiquette teachers (more everyday), and the etiquette classes taken by both Sean “Diddy” Combs and Angelina Jolie most recently. Both are concerned with their public image, which brings us to what I feel is one of the most important concepts when considering proper etiquette: image.
How others view us is important.
If we are to ask ourselves how we want to be viewed and begin there with our behavior and actions, I believe all of us would be viewed more positively and we could achieve more. Part of this, of course, is body language—important non-verbal communication.
If we want to be viewed as socially savvy, a nice person, and successful (or someone who will be), we should assume the position. Stand tall, head up with a positive facial expression. Young adults could benefit the most here. I believe, as many people view this age group as still children--young, untested. When the young lady assumes a confident stance, she usually receives respect.
Nevertheless, this is just one suggestion. Besides attending to our body language, attire is another important part of our non-verbals. Too often young women expose a bit more than they should. How can anyone take them seriously when they are dressed as if they are going out on the town? Less cleavage would direct the eyes where the lady wishes them to be…on her face.
Appearance only gets us so far. The way we walk, move, talk, and interact with others telegraphs who we are and how we want to be viewed. I could go on and on about this, but to put in simply and briefly, we should consider how our actions affect others before we do anything. For example, if we walk and talk loudly, it may affect others around us negatively. Cussing could offend others as well.
What attributes should a graceful modern woman possess?
Everything I've mentioned so far is part of the "graceful modern woman" package. Nevertheless, there is something many of us have forgotten about or feel that we cannot incorporate into our behavior. Perhaps it is because we feel--especially we women--that we have to appear strong and unyielding. However, nice works. Today's graceful lady should be strong, confident, educated, but also "nice". Nice people care about others. They listen (listening is the most important component of communication--very important in business).
For example: I listen to others. Actually, I'm known for my listening skills. I also notice people. I notice if someone is having a bad day, if he or she is sad or appear lost. I have no trouble striking up a conversation with strangers because of these skills. Where is all of this going?? It's traveling toward a story.
Here it goes...I always coffee with a few people at a local grocery store that has the best coffee, croissants, and tables for gathering. I'm somewhat of a "regular". Because this is my coffee hangout, I have met all the store associates. I listen to their stories. I notice when they appear distressed. I enquire about their children. Because I care, because I listen, and because I'm nice, everyone in the store wished me a happy birthday LOUDLY this past weekend. It was heartwarming. And, this is what happens to those who choose to be nice.
Therefore, we can be nice while also appearing to be strong and confident. We should walk with grace, quietly, and with purpose. Ladies should dress for success and not for the dance-floor--unless, of course, that's where they are headed. (Smile) In addition, all of us should consider how our behavior would affect others before acting.
My biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is our addiction to cell phones. Commonly, five people may be sitting at a communal table in a restaurant, park or just about anywhere and not one is talking to another. They all stare at their phones. I fear that we are losing our communication skills. It is vitally important for all of us to remember that interacting with the real person in front of us could lead to a memorable moment. Those moments are special. Human interactions…priceless.