Etiquette has gotten a bad name in this day and age. Who has time for etiquette? We grab our fast food and claw our way to the top without much concern for social graces. That’s no way to be nice! Yet the “E” in N-I-C-E stands for Etiquette because etiquette benefits one and all with the gift of a wonderful life. And etiquette is a choice. We’re not born with social graces. We learn them and choose to use them. If you want to make a mark in the world, then it helps to employ etiquette.
I had to laugh this past week. I was talking with one of my readers who noticed that we had added Afghanistan to the list of subscribers. “I can see the headline now,” quipped my friend, “War Ends! Taliban and Al Qaeda Decide to Be Nice!”
Now this was, of course, spoken in jest. But stranger things have happened than people changing their minds about how to treat others. That should, in fact, be our fervent prayer. That the war would end, that peace and justice would come, and that people would find new reasons and ways to be nice to each other.
One thing my friend’s jest illustrates is that being nice is not a personality trait • it’s a choice. We’re not born nice. We decide to be nice. Some personality types may be more hostile and aggressive than others, but even the angriest person can decide to treat others with civility and respect.
Studies show that doing so can help you live longer and better. Everyone knows that feeling and acting angry can momentarily increase your blood pressure. “Calm down!” we say, “before you burst a vein.” Clinical studies have now established a long-lasting connection between anger and heart disease. It pays big dividends to be nice • physiologically, psychologically, and socially • and it all starts with a conscious choice.
Since the pioneering work of Friedman, Rosenman, and Byers some 40 years ago, many people have heard about Type A and Type B personalities. Type A being the more aggressive, impatient, hard-driving, easily-angered, and time-pressured individuals with Type B being the more appreciative, polite, relaxed, easy-going, and time-plentiful individuals.
What many people do not know is that Meyer Friedman got into this line of research in part because he was himself a Type A personality, headed for significant cardiovascular health problems, who decided to become a Type B personality. It was a lifelong journey, but those who met him later in life never suspected that he was once a Type A personality. He had successfully made the transition to being a nice, patient, polite, and calm man.
What kind of person are you? Are you headed for trouble • physiologically, psychologically, and socially • or are you happy to be alive? The choice is yours to make.
A strong ally for overcoming the Type A personality are the social conventions known as etiquette. That’s why I’ve decided to make the “E” in N-I-C-E stand for employing Etiquette. The pleasantries, practices, and procedures of society are meant to be virtual assistants in the conduct of life. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If we take etiquette seriously we will be pointed in the direction of Type B behaviors.
Take something as basic as table manners. In this day and age, where people so frequently eat on the run or in the car, we have lost all sense of what table manners even are. Who knows the secrets of a formal place setting or what you can eat with your fingers? Most people just wolf down their food in order to get back to business as quickly as possible. We don’t chew our food properly or make good table conversation.
Or take the practice of handwritten thank you notes. In this day of instantaneous, electronic communications, handwritten notes are going by the way side. But there are times when nothing else will do. They make a huge impact on the recipient. Keeping a stack handy can make the difference between taking the time to be nice and never quite getting around to it.
Employing etiquette slows us down and makes us pay attention to the impact of our behavior on others. When we talk through a mouthful of food, for example, we risk making our companions uncomfortable and biting our tongue. Etiquette is a lubricant that both greases the wheels of society and assists us to live more wonderful lives. The next time you get a chance, you may want to dust off those old etiquette books • or search for etiquette on the Internet • in order to gain one more resource in the journey to nice.
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoy watching your subscriber numbers grow. I was particularly interested to see Afghanistan now represented on your list. I’m sure that your views will be very interesting to them. Have you heard anything from them?
Don’t kid yourself. I don’t think anything that we say or do is going to change how Muslims think about us or their religion. But it sure would be great to see a change • a meaningful change.
I’m not sure we have any “blame” here. Don’t we get up and try to do the best we can each day? I do. “Hind sight is always 20-20.” I must concentrate on the good I can do today. Trying to figure out blame or dwelling in self-pity because of things beyond our control is a waste of time. Make today count. Tell the people you love how you feel. Make a contribution.
I look forward to your Provision on Monday mornings. Thanks. Do you have articles that you may have done on coaching people through change? We are introducing many changes here and I want to help our teams through them.
How long do you try and nurture a strained work environment or tortured family relationship…to be connected with these people…how do you look past the fear and anger when someone is roaring with pain…how long do you try new and effective strategies before realizing there is no connection? And then are you not being “nice?”
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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