Etiquette guidelines are created from the ground up, for people by people, as standardization for navigating certain situations arises. It isn’t declared by any standard maker. It’s not ‘something you can grab hold of’ like a fork or knife, but through time in all cultures, etiquette evolves from social and professional best practices – those actions that are recognized as respectful, considerate, and honest.
The main business of each of us is to find our better selves and to shoulder responsibility for our actions. Developing habits of character and working to organize the qualities into effective personal lives is everyone’s duty to themselves.
To aim for etiquette-fulness as a personal goal, in and of itself, is confidence boosting. As habits of kindness are learned and practiced, they become second nature, leaving time to focus on the substance of engaging with others. We end up modeling for and with each other.
There are some really big ideas behind etiquette, and these big ideas are the basis of etiquette, regardless of culture.
These ideas ground what become known as polite, as etiquette-ful. The big ideas are the why’s and the how-to’s that fall under the etiquette-ful umbrella.
In every culture, greetings are given and accepted. From an early age, children are taught how to physically greet other people, whether that be a handshake or a bow or other known gesture. We learn to make eye contact when communicating and practice it to know how much is too much or too little.
This learning process is the perfect example of etiquette being for people by people. It is taught person to person. As social creatures living in families, working, and playing together, we teach each other how to temper the passions and, as Adam Smith famously says, “bring our self-love down to what others will go along with.”
Our own views about etiquette and its importance no doubt change with the times as we embrace traditions and create new ones with our families and friends. We outgrow the silly idea that etiquette is stodgy, stuck-up, and sullen. We realize how important etiquette considerations are in gaining practical skills for personal and professional success.
When you venture down the road of being “etiquette-ful,” you become a new kind of problem-solver, increasingly able to manage your personal space and remain sensitive to the needs of others.