Manners: Basic Life Skills

Do they really matter?

Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” Clarence Thomas

I grew up with my mom reading Miss Manners aloud to us. If you don’t know who she is – Google her name. She is considered the expert.

Manners are conduct and behavior we live by. It is the consideration of others we interact with. The way we live when where alone should be the same when we are with others, because our manners should be part of our basic life skills for success.

Did you know your success can hinge on your manners? It is true!

As business person, I have noticed a few slips across the board in the Manners Department. Here are the Top 5, check and see if you need to follow the “Tune Up Strategy” to get you back on top. It is important as the tune up is for your car, this life-skill tune up is critical to YOUR success in relationships, work place and stress levels will go down!

#1 Cell Phones, TV and other Distractions

Am I the only one who hates someone who is looking at their phone while you are talking to them? Or sitting in a restaurant filled with TV’s and it takes every ounce of restraint to listen the conversation and not look up?

We all need to UNPLUG! Basic life skills require you to be to go somewhere and NOT look at your phone. I have learned the less available to my electronics I am the more I can accomplish, and the more I accomplish the more successful I am. And YES, my business depends on my phone and all the things that go with it —- but my life does not depend on them.

When I was growing up, we DID NOT ANSWER the PHONE when it rang. My dad said they could always call back. While my kids were going up, we had the same rule. Did you?

This past year we had two interns living with us finishing their 3rd year of school. When we had dinner, we did the phone stack. Everyone’s phone silenced, facedown and stacked on the table. It was a funny thing, because sometimes I would want to pick mine up,  but the rule was — we can unplug from our phones long enough to eat dinner. It won’t kill us.

Here is Miss Manners take on the cell phone issue:

It’s just as rude to ignore someone by texting as it would be to pull out a newspaper or a book in front of them.

— Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

In a article in the June 2016 issue of Prevention Magazine, shares the different types of stress caused by being too connected to our phones. They have identified some syndromes, such as low battery anxiety. (I have definitely experienced that one.) My favorite one is FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. The good news is they tell you how to take back control.

Where are you in the distraction zone on a scale of one to ten?

1) If my battery is low, I panic.

2) I check my phone constantly for calls, text and my social media apps.

3) My phone is always by my side, even when I sleep.

If you answered True to one or more, you need to go back to the basics of life by following a few of these ideas.

1) Give yourself permission to turn your phone off in 10 minute increments through out the day and doing something different, like take a walk or just allow your mind to rest. By doing this you are able to wean your need of the constantly being available and measure what, if anything you missed.

2) Agree on a ‘phone stack’ during meals, even if you are eating alone.

3) Set a limit of phone checks. For example if you check it 4 times an hour, cut back to three times.

Let conversation come back into your relationships and stress be released.

#2  Arriving On Time

My husband’s rule of thumb is, if you are on time, then you are late. Well, it took me time to learn that rule and adjust to that way of thinking. My mom was always late. Many times as kids, we chased the school bus down the street because we were late.  By the way, the school bus stop was in front of our house!

I hired someone to do freelance work for me and they were late to every meeting. We had scheduled lunch and I arrived a few minutes early. The restaurant was packed and the hostess showed me to my table. The clocked ticked away: 5 minutes late, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, finally almost an hour late, they arrived. With no real explanation other than they were finishing a project to hand off at the meeting. When I asked for the packet, they told me they didn’t get it done, but they wanted to come for lunch.

Think about this for a minute — what might have been Miss Manners response?

The person should have called prior to the meeting and advised they would not have the project completed. At that time, the person waiting could decide to meet or reschedule. 

If you are going to be late, no matter how late, you must let the people you are meeting know. In this digital world, it is easy to send a text or make a quick call. When we are late it sends the message to the person or persons we are meeting, that they are less important.

Here is a way to evaluate your on-time life skill. Answer these three questions and find out if you need to press the reset button on your clock.

  1. Frequently, I am ten minutes late or more for the scheduled time.
  2. People tease me about my tardiness.
  3. I rarely arrive early.

If you answered True to any of these then it is time for a tune up.

Here are three quick changes to you get back on track:

  1. Keep track of the times you are late for the next 5 days. Write down how many minutes you were running behind and what the reason was.
  2. Prepare you schedule for the following 5 days with the added adjustments of minutes to each appointment. (Note: You may need to reschedule an appointment or two to allow enough time.)
  3. Continue the process until you are back to an On Time status.

You will be less stressed and the people you engage with will be much happier not having to wait on you.

#3 Table Manners

This is a surprisingly lost art. The way you handle yourself at the table, leaves an impression on others. This is especially true in business. Whether you are fine dining or at McDonald’s, manners still matter.

I won’t go crazy with stories. Let’s touch on some of the basic at the table.

– Napkins in your lap please

– Keep your elbows off the table

– Wait until every one is served before eating

– If you don’t know what to do, follow your host

– Mouths closed when eating

– Talking — absolutely — after you finish what is in your mouth

– Eat at a steady pace resting your fork between bites

– No gulping down your drink

– If alcohol is being served, pace yourself

– No burping, teeth cleaning, or make up — other personal hygiene should happen elsewhere

– And of course, phones down

#3 No Shows and RSVP’s

It seems people are hesitant to commit to an event requiring RSVP and when they do — they are No Show’s. For my daughter’s wedding, we had over 200 people and only about 50% RSVP’d. The rest we had to call. And we had guests attend who did not RSVP.

We host many functions, and the trend I am seeing is people RSVP at the last minute. Then you can expect about 5% no show if it is a paid event and up to 20% if the event is free of charge. Of course there are good reasons for people to not come. But there is no excuse not to call, unless you were marooned on a desert island, then follow up when you are rescued with an apology.

Here are the life basics for RSVPing and if for some unavoidable reason you no show an event.

1 – RSVP as soon as you know your schedule, whether it is an Attend or Regrets.

2 – When you commit to attend, go, even if you get a better offer or rather sit at home in your PJ’s.

3 – If for some unavoidable reason you NO Show — call the host and apologize.

Remember your host has invested time, effort and money. Especially if it is a catered event, the cost per head is at the very minimum $30 and is usually in the $50 range. So think about it, if you and your no show or even last minute cancel — immediately it cost the host $100, not to mention the disappointment.

“Life be not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

#5 Please and Thank You

I have two brothers and two sisters and not only we were taught to say please and thank you, but yes sir and no sir. We won’t go into that one today.

Please and Thank you are a must! It is part of being an adult.

Please is an adverb. According to Webster it is used as a function word to express politeness or emphasis in a request.

For example, Please pass me the salt and pepper.


Would you like coffee?

Yes, Please

Thank you is a noun. It is used as a polite expression of one’s gratitude.

When coffee arrives, say Thank You.

This is simple enough — right? But how many times do you forget to say

Please and/or Thank You?

I can safely say, “please and thank you” are being underused!

And I do not think they can be over used!

Is it possible to overuse please and thank you?

Absolutely not!

When the server in a restaurant asks if you would like a refill for your drink…

Yes, please.

When they bring it…

Thank You.

As you go through your day, count the times you should have said please or thank you. If it is more than an occasional slip, then you might want to be more intentional.

Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go.”

~Margaret Walker

14 Day Challenge:

Now comes the 14 day challenge of refreshing your life skills. If you want to hear the entire Podcast, click here.

– Be On Time

– Put down your distractions

– Practice Your table Manners

– RSVP and Show up

– Please and Thank You obsessively

Watch what happens!

People will engage with you differently because of your attention to them. You will see greater connections to others because of your Good Manners!

Until Next time — remember you are the best investment you can make.