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The True Role of Etiquette

August 21, 2006

A_LOGOby Benjamin D. Summers

I was conducting a bit of research to gain some insight into how various authorities on etiquette present their topic to compare with my own understanding. What I found was a bit surprising, although now that I reconsider, it shouldn’t have been.

Etiquette seems to have a fairly negative connotation for most people I come across. They tend to regard it as a stuffy set of rules designed to help the pretentious maintain their condescending air. As I conducted my online research, many of the etiquette instructors I found further support this notion. They seem to be laying out a list of rules for their students to memorize with little to no regard for the reason the rules were developed. They themselves give off a feeling of pretension derived from their “superior” knowledge. I tend to believe that in most cases they have no idea what they’re trying to accomplish beyond collecting a check. It was with this in mind that I felt compelled to address the topic at hand.

Let me start by saying etiquette is critically important to anyone who has any interest in a fulfilling social life. Granted, some, if not many of the rules people bring to bear are dated and irrelevant, and that is why it is fundamentally important to understand the spirit in which they were created. The rules and conventions of etiquette were established for one reason and one reason only, to clarify communication through order while maintaining a strong sense of honor and consideration for others. Like with anything that falls into the wrong hands, a bastardization of it will invariably result that ultimately leads to the benefit of its authentic purpose being squandered. Etiquette has suffered this fate, and in no place is it more apparent than in the U.S.

Once an individual decides it important to take others into consideration before he acts, and to effectively communicate when faced with otherwise convoluted circumstances, etiquette strides forward from an academic idea to a very practical necessity. It is with this decision that a gentleman is born. A set of memorized rules alone will fall sorely short of supporting him on this path of social awareness, but understanding and valuing the principles that led to their creation will most certainly see him through with flying colors. Not only will he be equipped to handle any circumstance, but he will do so with an absolute self assurance that will position him as a perceived leader. While the socially uneasy cower in mass, it is this commitment to principle that ennobles the debonair.

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