It's Not Just What You Say, But How You Make People Feel

Lemonade in the Garden

When you make people feel recognized and acknowledged, it’s more than pleasant. When this happens publicly, even more so. Regardless of whether we are in good times or bad times, when another person makes us smile or laugh or reinforces something they notice about us or what we did, the experience is noted pleasurably in our minds. A connection is made with the experience and with the person associated with it.

On the Other Side of Me

Early in my time as an etiquette coach, I was leading graduate students through a coursed dinner. Cell phones were to be put away, but I saw one student texting, caught her eye, then frowned, signaling with my hand to put the phone away. She scowled at me the entire evening.

Afterwards, when I thanked her for coming, she did not smile. Had I employed good manners, always undergirded by the principle of respect and consideration--with one small meeting of the eyes with a smile during the incident, I have no doubt that a little bond of goodwill would have been made. Sadly, I imagine her lumping a negative view of the instructor into one negative view of dining etiquette.

The great question, “What’s it Like to Be on the Other Side of Me?” can serve as a solid guide through any social situation where impressions are being made. In teaching, it’s important to acknowledge participants’ sense of control, particularly when it comes to moments where they just haven’t registered what the situation calls for.

If a person feels that they were dismissed, left out, or made to feel “less than” after interacting with you, those impressions will linger in that person’s mind. Imagining a long-term relationship with this person, as if this person were always to be in your life, can work wonders for your mind-set. Even more, the commitment to etiquette-fulness sets an example to others that civility begins in the here and now.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  
~ Maya Angelou

Etiquette Can Make People Feel Positive

When courtesy and kindness are the aim, a positive impression is made. Employing etiquette in interactions will make people feel they are important. Have you ever met someone and left the conversation feeling that you were significant? You were seen, heard, and treated kindly?

I can assure you, you weren’t the only one who felt that way. Etiquette-fulness has a way of making everyone involved feel better about themselves and the people they interact with.

Some methods for interacting that always leave a lasting positive impression:

  • Make an effort to remember a person’s name.
  • Stay focused on the here and now in conversation.
  • Be curious.
  • Avoid “here’s my example that’s like your story” one-upmanship comments during conversation.
  • Look for positives to compliment the person.

Making a habit of considering how you make people feel during your daily interactions can contribute to your long-term etiquette-ful quotient. And remembering, as Adam Smith reminds us, that “kindness is the parent of kindness” will inform anything you have to say.

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