Showing up in a polite, positive, or good way means that you are behaving well. Adults enjoy seeing children who mind their manners; children form etiquette-ful habits and behaviors from the example of adults; and everyone appreciates the kindnesses shown by others.
Yet, as an etiquette instructor, I hear comments about how etiquette skills are antiquated in modern society. Ironically, this perception only holds when people, and those around them, are behaving well.
Custom may inform us on how to govern, manage or conduct ourselves, and it’s wise to observe the local circumstances and try our best to adjust behaviors accordingly. Only individuals, however, can conduct or comport themselves.
Conducting oneself responsibly is the crown on considering oneself grown-up. How good it feels when someone recognizes you for not only being appropriate, but going a step further in kindness, and consideration for the feelings of another.
Longstanding language expressions call us to serve our better selves:
These reminders have been heard throughout our lives on various occasions. Not only are they traditional phrases, they are instructions for behaving well.
In the 18th century, Adam Smith claimed that agreeable manners inflame our natural love of virtue and increase our tolerance of imperfection. They often correct or ascertain our natural sentiments with regard to the propriety of conduct. Suggesting many nice and delicate intentions, they shape us to a more exact justness of behavior—without which instruction we would have been at a loss to think of.
The above list of reminders, and the fact that we hear or say them often, offers clues to the difficulties of acting on them. It also prompts us that another person may be struggling with their own good behavior, calling us to patience and compassion as they choose to act with propriety and kindness.
Though a person who has been reminded that he needs to behave more suitably may feel that the idea is antiquated and instead retorts, “Whatever,” humans might have long understood, the building of mental strength is about self-regulating emotions, managing thought expression, and aiming for the positive, despite circumstances.
Behaving well, or acting in a manner of kindness, courtesy and respect, flies under the radar of noticeable actions. Why? Because it is assumed that everyone aims for good rapport and harmony with each other in every circumstance. As long as this is the norm, conducting oneself properly will never become an antiquated idea.