Manners are clearly not the same as laws, but they are etiquette-ful boundaries and are not trivial. Edmund Burke said that “Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend.” Manners lay down expectations of behavior, removing complications in relationships ranging from families to community groups. The fact that manners are superficial is what makes them of crucial importance in our lives. Good manners are about boundaries, about setting limits.
We set limits to create a healthy sense of personal space and to be physically and emotionally safe and comfortable. Our personal boundaries need to be clear to others such that they will know how we will feel or what we will do if our line is crossed. When we set these limits for ourselves, we are allowing others to respect and understand us.
Setting etiquette-ful boundaries includes expressing ourselves well and not permitting emotions to enter communication with others. We encourage the people in our lives to share their own personal guidelines.
Areas of boundary-making include what you are willing to do in various situations and what you won’t do based on personal and societal rules. You might consider these character commitments when setting your limits with others:
Communicating etiquette-ful boundaries requires kindness and clarity. Be kind when expressing your needs, using the following communication guidelines:
Be clear with yourself on why you feel a certain boundary is needed. Perhaps your sister is chronically late to weekly lunch dates, and you feel disrespected. Every conversation with your neighbor, who considers herself a good friend, includes gossip about other people. You know that if she’s gossiping about others to you, she’s gossiping about you to others.
Boundaries are sometimes discovered when we are living outside of them. It’s as if they find us. You’ll know you are outside of your limits when a certain situation or event feels uncomfortable, your first inclination is to say no, or something just feels not right. Sometimes it is blatantly obvious to everyone, and sometimes it might be personal to you.
Etiquette-ful boundaries keep you in integrity with yourself. You know you are doing the right thing for you. Your mind is clear, you avoid fretting over something you don’t feel right about, and you avoid questioning if your words or actions negatively affected someone else. And the people in your life will respect you for showing respect by setting your etiquette-ful boundaries.