The First Rule of Etiquette

Stayce Wagner, owner and founder, Spencer Crane Etiquette, LLC

By Stayce Wagner, Spencer Crane Etiquette, LLC

The sheriffs and movers who refused to evict 103-year-old Vinia Hall and her 83-year-old daughter from the Atlanta home that they have shared for fifty years understand. They understand that having good manners isn’t always about power handshakes and proper introductions.

Sometimes, demonstrating good manners is just about doing the right thing. Yes, being able to identify your oyster fork at a formal business dinner is a very good thing, but it will ultimately serve no purpose if you don’t treat others with kindness, understanding and respect. In my etiquette practice, I call the philosophy of making kindness and consideration the top priority in your interactions with others “The First Rule of Etiquette.”

I had the privilege of being the granddaughter of a woman whose life embodied this rule. My mother’s mother was not a rich lady, but she was a great lady. The home she shared with my grandfather was modest in size, but her heart was large and full of love.

I can still see and smell the ever-present freshly baked coconut cake (and the yellow cake with chocolate icing for those of us who did not like coconut) sitting on top of the deep freezer in her kitchen waiting for whomever was going to have the pleasure of being in her company.

There was no such thing as an uninvited guest in my grandmother’s house. Neighbors, friends and family would drop by on a seemingly daily basis – and at odd hours – confident that they would be received with a smile. And whether the visitor stayed five minutes or an hour or two, my grandmother would stop whatever she had been doing before they arrived to happily entertain and feed them until they were ready to leave. Her sweetness and warmth made every guest feel as if she had been waiting all day just to see them.

When she passed away, it was standing room only at the church where she had been a member for forty years. Generations of family and friends crowded into the little church to honor the woman who had made each of us feel special and loved.

My grandmother understood. She knew that the foundation of good manners is not in a handshake or a greeting. Rather, it is in the kindness and consideration that you show to others. It is in the love that you share.

Happy Holidays!

This blog was originally published on The Estrin Report.

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