Does etiquette stifle our individuality or is our individuality enhanced by etiquette-fulness? In a recent email stream, a family member wondered whether “etiquette concerns distracted people from their chief job in the world, which is being unique individuals with distinct personalities”. We do have many responsibilities in the world and being ourselves is surely one of them.
Individuality refers to a person’s unique characteristics, qualities, and traits—those that make the person stand out from others and encompasses various characteristics such as a person’s values, beliefs, interests, talents, and experiences. And while individuality references the qualities that sets someone apart, personality is more about consistency in patterns of thought and action that anchors character and the person’s general approach to life across time.
Regardless of how persons are referenced and thought of, being sensitive to the needs and concerns of others distinguishes you as a person to be remembered and thought of in a positive light.
Quoting philosopher Adam Smith, “To be amiable and to be meritorious; that is, to deserve love and to deserve reward, are the great characters of virtue…Virtue is amiable, or…meritorious…because it excites those sentiments in other men.” (Theory of Moral Sentiments) “In TMS, modern notions of individual responsibility and individuality were manifest in ‘self-command’ and in ‘duty,’ as individuals drew strength and empowerment from the matrix of social connectedness.” (Vernon Smith)
Adam Smith argued that our identities are shaped through our interactions with others in society. We are social creatures who need and seek recognition and approval from others and our sense of who we are relates to our social interactions and the opinions of others. We often rely on social norms and social conventions to guide our behavior and seek to be recognizably respectful.
Practicing good etiquette allows us to align ourselves with the accepted standards of behavior in our society. By demonstrating respect, courtesy, and consideration towards others, we signal our willingness to adhere to the shared values and expectations of our community.
Etiquette-fulness grows positive social interactions and relationships. When we strive to live the good manners we were taught, we create harmonious, respectful environments that encourage friendly cooperation and enhance our sense of self as a valued member of our families, groups, and communities.
This, in turn, reinforces our sense of self as a valued member of our social group. We are valued as individuals. And we feel comfortable and confident navigating social settings with ease. Our individuality and mindfulness of it is not trivial.
Yes, our individuality is enhanced by our etiquette-fulness.