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Communication Skills: Etiquette and Politeness

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Posted 15 September 2015 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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Communication Skills: Etiquette and Politeness

I would like to recommend a book to you. It is called, "The Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness", by Cecil B. Hartley. It was written way back in 1860 and it is a great read.

Etiquette is a set of rules for polite and considered speech and behaviour.

Some people do have a wonderful appreciation of politeness and a refined sense of etiquette and sadly, some people don't.

Question: Do you know anyone with a complete lack of etiquette and what effect does this person have on the others?

The Book of Etiquette and Politeness makes a distinction between etiquette and politeness. Here is an extended quote from the book which I have modified to update the language slightly.

"There is a difference between etiquette and politeness.

  • Politeness is an attitude of mind, and as such, it may exist in anyone.
  • Etiquette is the outward expression of politeness reduced to a set of formal rules, which are current in a society.

It is interesting to note that a person may be polite, in the heart, yet may show in every movement an ignorance of the rules of etiquette, and offend against the laws of society. You may find him with his elbows on the table, or laughing too loudly, or tilting back his chair, in a parlour.

Although you may see him commit gross breaches of etiquette; you will never hear him intentionally utter one word to wound another, and you will see that he habitually endeavours to make others more comfortable.

Such a man will learn by his daily contact with others, that his ignorance of the rules of etiquette makes him, at times, slightly disagreeable company. But from his good and unselfish inner motive, he will watch and learn quickly and almost by instinct he will drop, one by one, his errors in etiquette and become more cultured.

On the other hand, you may meet a man whose polish of manner is exquisite. He will perform the minutest point of the niceties of good manners, and obey the strictest rules of etiquette, yet underneath this mask of gallantry he carries a cold heart.

The cold hearted man carries a willingness to wound deeply the feelings of others, while acting all the time with elegance of manner; he is in feeling as cruel and barbarous as a dog.

Real politeness is the outward expression of the most generous impulse of the heart. It enforces benevolence and kindness and the enactment of the Golden Rule: 'Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you'.

Thus the first principle in politeness and good etiquette is to show respect for your neighbour".

If you are interested in reading more, then there are two versions of this book available:

The Ladies' Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness by Florence Hartley and

The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness by Cecil B Hartley

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