19 Jan 2022

Why manners matter

Good manners are not about empty gestures, arcane rituals or social exclusivity. They are about being self-aware, keenly observant of other people, and ensuring that all your social interactions are positive and agreeable.

While we respect the etiquette of days gone by, and inevitably retain vestiges of the social codes that were religiously observed by previous generations, it is essential to recognise that we live in a rapidly changing society. The drawn-out, leisurely rituals of greetings, introductions and small talk enjoyed by our ancestors have been diminished and streamlined in our connected, dynamic modern world. Our myriad means of communication – from texts, to emails, to FaceTime – have curtailed the old-fashioned niceties, and we have all had to develop ways of using new technology considerately, and not allowing its speed and convenience to eradicate simple courtesy.

In an increasingly informal society, where hierarchies are not invariably acknowledged and respect is frequently earned, behaviour has been moderated. Many of the social faux-pas of a bygone generation would scarcely cause a raised eyebrow today. At a time when social standing was minutely calibrated and corroborated by every nuance of behaviour, manners were crucial attributes, which were constantly assessed and evaluated. These judgments are increasingly out of place in today’s society, but the positive benefits of good manners are still universally recognised.

There is no denying that the basic ‘toolkit’ of good manners – from saying please and thank you, to graciously introducing people, and making polite small talk – still plays a vital role in human communication. These common courtesies oil the wheels of social intercourse, ensuring that everyone is noted and acknowledged, and that nobody feels dismissed or discounted. 

Despite the increasing informality of society, there are undoubtedly still occasions, such as weddings or white tie dinners, when we rely on well-established conventions to give the events gravitas. At Debrett’s we want to ensure that nobody will ever feel cowed by social anxiety or uncertainty. By providing comprehensive guidance on all kinds of formal events, we hope to equip everyone with the information they will need to negotiate the rituals of answering invitations, adhering to dress codes, and attending a formal dinner.

Good manners are of paramount importance in every aspect of our lives, from our most significant rituals to our mundane, everyday interactions. They will help us to navigate any difficulties that come our way, smooth out conflict, and gloss over social awkwardness. Far from being outdated or outmoded, they are a vital survival tool.

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