Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Etiquette in a man's world

Published:Monday | April 11, 2016 | 4:12 PMMichelle Parkes

Ps. Please use the Bright Spark logo with this column.

Etiquette, for some men, does not belong in the same breath as manliness. For them, etiquette and manners conjure up lists of dos and don'ts, a nagging mother, or artificial formality .... and, notice I said "some men". It wasn't always so. Our grandfathers saw no contradiction in being ruggedly manly and a refined gentleman. For centuries, well-bred men were trained in all the manly arts, from the skills needed to be a soldier to the proper etiquette for dinner parties. They were quintessential gentlemen -- dapper in dress, polite in conduct, and yet every bit a true man. Michael Manley, Marcus Garvey, and Sir Alexander Bustamante are some examples of men who combined gritty manliness with gentlemanly bearing. They paid attention to how they dressed, groomed, and conducted themselves and were as comfortable at a stately ball as they were on the battlefield. For these great men, having good manners did not make them less of a man, but more of one. Still unconvinced? First let's take a more specific look at some misconceptions about manners, and then at the reasons we should cultivate them. What Good Manners Are Not A young man's negative opinion on manners sometimes springs from observing others practise them badly. But these are not true manners, for: Good manners are not stiff, formal, or awkward. Good manners should come off as entirely natural. Some young men, knowing this and not wanting to seem like they're trying too hard, swing the opposite way, and try so hard to be "natural" in their manners that they come off as even more contrived! Real naturalness comes from a few things: Forgetting yourself and concentrating on others. The more you focus on making others comfortable, the less self-conscious you will feel, and the more comfortable you will become yourself. Catering your behaviour to the crowd and event in which you find yourself. Your manners should be more formal when visiting Gordon House than when eating at Burger King. Practise. Good manners shouldn't be something you cram for in emergencies like studying for an exam. Rather, they should be a habit you develop through practise over time, like a pair of jeans that gets softer, more comfortable, and better-looking the more you wear it. Cultivating an inner sense of character. This is most important. At its root, naturalness in manner springs from your sincerity and desire to treat people well for the right reasons. Even if you do end up being a little awkward, if it comes from a sincere place, people will be very forgiving of it. Good manners are not ostentatious. Good manners should never be showy or call attention to themselves. In fact they should not even be immediately noticeable in the moment and instead should create an overall positive impression, which the people with whom you interact only reflect on later: "I really enjoy his company." "I had such a good time at his party." Don't practise good manners to feel superior to others or to police people's behaviour. As Charles Dickens once wrote: "My boy," said a father to his son, "treat everyone with politeness -- even those who are rude to you. For remember that you show courtesy to others not because they are gentlemen, but because you are one."

Ps Michelle Parkes is a certified etiquette consultant. She can be reached at bright.sparkes