…is said to be paved with good intentions. Do good intentions become a slippery slope when lacking the mortar of manners?
My grandmother always told me that between thoughtfulness, consideration of others and my upbringing (read: the manners I was raised with), I could hold my head high among the most exalted company, even so far as to dine with the Queen.
Regardless, it’s tough for anyone trying to fit in to new situations or with new people. Sometimes you don’t know the right thing to say or do. Sometimes you feel that saying or doing nothing is better than failing by saying or doing something, if it’s the wrong thing. Sometimes doing the wrong thing seems inevitable. And there’s always the damn fish fork to figure out.
Outwards in is the rule for using cutlery. Maybe inwards out is the rule for interacting with others.
While I’ve never dined with the Queen, my raising and grandmother’s advice has successfully carried me (albeit with some nervousness and occasional awkwardness) through interactions with people from all over the world.
If I couldn’t figure it out by watching, I politely asked. And I listened to what was said. I learned. I smiled. I tried again. I watched others and asked them about them. Who they are, why they are who they are. People want to be heard. They want to be liked. Respected for their individuality. Sometimes genuine care is far more important than the right words or the correct spoon.
I was in the catering business for a long time, and the best waiter I ever worked with once told me, “while there are rules for presenting and clearing plates, you ALWAYS opt for the action most gracious for the guest.”
I think that lesson, along with my Granny’s counsel, has always worked best for me. And Emily Post’s guideline. She’s the Queen of Etiquette, after all. To have awareness and consideration for the feelings of others is a way towards communications. Communication is a path towards understanding. And I think that understanding is an expressway to peace and good will, no matter how diverse people may be.
Being able to interact, with though and care towards others, is the road I aim to be on. Whichever fork I take.
And yes, it would have been cool to dine with Emily. I think I might just pull it off, perhaps even with a little grace. My Granny raised me well.