The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
Instagram

Revisiting etiquette

As you may or may not know, I am the host of “Miss Manners,” a weekly radio program that airs Wednesday at 11 p.m. on KPNI. Being a radio hostess is not the easiest job in the world, but it certainly is entertaining.

Indeed, I have already experienced a few ups and downs in my short time on the air, including an incident two weeks ago when I accidentally pressed the one button labeled “NO!” on the sound board and almost irreparably injured my own ears as well as those of my listeners. Although my journey learning the ins and outs of the studio has been challenging, the most difficult part of being Miss Manners has been bringing the manners themselves into focus.

What is the place of etiquette today? Most of the elaborate manners of the Victorians are a bit outdated (did you know that it was considered inappropriate to remove one’s gloves when making a formal call?), but many of the basic tenants of etiquette are more important now than ever.

Rather than serving as ostentatious displays of social status, today’s manners are anything but elaborate. In fact, they are as simple as practicing sincerity, patience, and kindness.

Admittedly, I have long been fascinated by etiquette, so perhaps the topic interests me more than most. But even for those who prefer to eat with their elbows on the table, etiquette is still a crucial part of everyday interaction.

Etiquette, in my opinion, is the one place in our chaotic world where virtue and civilization can happily coexist. Indeed, etiquette and ethics are so tightly bound that I oftentimes find myself confusing the terms. At the very root of etiquette, at least in its purest form, lies genuine concern for the welfare of others. What could be more ethical than that?

It is with this in mind that I would like to restate, in my own small way, how we value manners in this century. For those who despise them, the old rules are out the window (I do hope Emily Post did not just turn over in her grave). Yes, by all means, remove your gloves when making a formal call. You can even put your elbows on the table and drink your Pinot out of a sherry glass. But just because tedious and impossible-to-memorize rules no longer govern our social behavior does not mean that etiquette is outdated.

So even with the fear of losing my listening audience, I offer three simple guidelines to a successful life of manners, rules to consult that apply to every situation.

First, think before you act. Second, when you act, do it with others in mind. Third, and arguably most important, remember that you cannot have two sets of manners.

The first two guidelines are simple and require no explanation other than a warning that adhering to them is more difficult than it seems, and, further, that most of us rarely succeed in strict adherence to them. The third and most nuanced guideline reminds us that kindness and thoughtfulness are not only for social situations but for private ones as well. Just because we are most comfortable at home does not give us license to treat those in our private lives with disrespect.

Time and time again, life has proven that the best way to resolve conflict is to practice respect. I cannot think of a single situation in which the use of etiquette has been ineffective. No one is perfect, least of all I, but if we all spent a little more time thinking about etiquette and a little less time thinking about ourselves, our world would run a little more smoothly. And if you have an etiquette dilemma from time to time or are just dying to know how to use a fish knife, you can always call Miss Manners.

Rebecca Quinn is a sophomore art history, Spanish, and French triple major. She can be reached for comment at [email protected].

More to Discover