Last week there was considerable debate on a speech the Tatler Editor delivered to a girls’ boarding school on manners. Essentially, Kate Reardon was saying that being polite and basically a good human being matters just as much as good grades in your A Levels. Read some commentary about this. And more coverage.
On first reading the articles, my thoughts were this was a throwback to the 1950s where charm and beauty in women was highly prized over brainpower! Kate Reardon said “I’m not talking about manners about using the right spoon for soup or eating asparagus with your left hand. I’m talking about being polite and respectful and making people you interact with feel valued.” However, I realised this speech wasn’t directed at women but at everyone!
How often have we met someone who is charming? Not in a slimy or creepy way, but someone who engages, thinks of and respects others, listens and has good manners. Kate Reardon is correct in saying that it isn’t about excellent table manners: I’ve met some truly horrendous people who pride themselves on “Good manners” but who are charm free zones! Other people,who are an utter joy to be around, who might be frowned upon by the Tatler/Debretts brigade on which spoon they use for their soup. I love those people and I want to be around them and to work with them!
Recently I have had several situations where other people’s manners (or lack of them) have resulted in me not wanting to work with them. Perhaps I’m sounding like a “Grumpy Old Lady”, and fine, but I don’t believe this is a generational issue, but one of being a great human being.
- Last week I arranged to meet someone who had been introduced via someone else. At the last minute she asked where we were meeting, even though we had confirmed and I’d sent a link. I travelled 30 minutes to get to the render vows, waited 35 minutes whilst I had texts “I’m stuck in traffic”, “I’m finding somewhere to park” etc In the end I went back to my office having wasted 100 minutes of travelling and waiting. At no time did she apologise for keeping me waiting but said “I’m sorry you had to go”. She didn’t acknowledge the disruption to my day. No I don’t want to work with anyone like that.
- I interviewed a musician for our Viva Live Music site. The musician was incredibly arrogant and kept dropping into the conversation that she’d been to boarding school as though this made her a better person. She also spent a lot of time being rude about other musicians that I knew. I couldn’t risk including her in any work because she wouldn’t be good to work with; I’m sure the other musicians wouldn’t like working with her, BUT also I couldn’t risk her representing the company to clients.
- I stayed at a luxury hotel whilst speaking at a conference. Having travelled for over 6 hours I was greeted by a receptionist who not only was on the phone, but failed to acknowledge me as I stood waiting for 5 minutes. Not a great welcome.
We all have lapses of ‘good manners’ – no one is perfect, particularly me, but it is good to be mindful of the benefits of being courteous and considering others. I don’t mean that you should be a pushover but being respectful of others goes a long way. I am thrilled my son’s school recognises the benefits and value of good manners and has a Citizenship series of awards that boys are awarded with for being: well, great human beings. Certainly the school creates gentlemen that are very employable; they are courteous, work hard and charming. Excellent.