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Teach Social Skills to Your Family: It Matters



“The hardest job kids have today is learning good manners…without seeing any.” Fred Astaire.


Women have great influence in their family, and much of the work falls to us to provide each person with the tools they need to succeed. But how can we pass along knowledge that we do not possess?


A nearly 100-year-old research study conducted by the Carnegie Foundation, Harvard University, and Stanford Research Center has recently resurfaced. It states that 85% of a person’s success in business is attributed to their “soft” skills, and 15% of their success comes from their knowledge base about their field of study. Soft skills relate to manners, etiquette, basic communication skills, and sensory acuity. If 85% of our success in life is based on how we conduct ourselves, I would argue providing these resources for our family rank high in importance.


As I have contemplated what society terms “good manners” I have asked myself, “Why do good manners really matter?” I was faced with the challenge of answering this question when our son played youth football. My husband was coach and required the players to address the staff with sir. One of the mothers on the team who had just moved from another state said she did not agree with requiring children to address adults with sir and ma’am. In fact, where they were from, students could call their teachers and coaches by their first names. Never before had I been challenged to explain the “why” when it came to the importance of manners.

To understand the “why” in soft skills, we need to know the difference between manners and etiquette. “Manners and etiquette go hand in hand but are not the same. Manners are an expression of inner character. Etiquette is a set of rules dealing with exterior form. Manners are common sense...but etiquette is the guiding code that enables us to practice manners. Respect, kindness, and consideration form the basis of good manners and good citizenship. Etiquette becomes the language of manners.” -Encyclopedia.com.



In the United States, more than 300 million people might be on our roads in any given day. With so much congestion on our streets, how do we keep from crashing into each other? One reason. We live by a set of rules. If someone does not live by these rules, there might be serious consequences in the form of a crash. This could lead to financial hardship, medical tragedies, or even death. The rules (laws) are there to guide us so we do not cause undo harm to our fellow travelers. When we respect the rules, we will not violate the rules, which means we increase our chances of living in harmony with each other.


This same philosophy holds true with manners and etiquette. The Laws of Etiquette, written in 1883, defines etiquette as “a code of laws established by society for its protection against rudeness, and other offences, which the civil law cannot reach.” The book continues by saying “…the civil law cannot punish a man for discourteous behavior, but society can cause him to change his manners by refusing to recognize him.”

Notice how the words “law” and “protection” are used to define etiquette in society. The rules (laws) of etiquette are there to protect us, just like the laws (rules) of the road are there to protect us. Laws cannot force us to change our manners, but society can. If a member of our family displays bad manners, they might find themselves relegated to the children’s table at the annual Christmas dinner. If these poor manners go beyond the confines of the family, that person may find they are no longer invited to social gatherings with friends. If these same manners extend into their professional life, they may notice they are gradually losing a voice in meetings, not included in happy hour after work or worse, their financial growth and upward job mobility begins to stall due to the way they conduct themselves.

“…manners (are)…the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.” -Emily Post. Put another way, manners are nothing more than the Golden Rule, and etiquette is the way we practice that rule. Etiquette is the language of manners, and a person’s manners are a direct reflection of their heart.



Cynthia Grosso, owner of the Charleston School of Protocol, uses the visual illustration of an iceberg to describe manners. When we see an iceberg from land, we are only viewing the top 15% of the ice cap. The other 85% is hidden under the water and out of sight. The manners we display and how we behave (the top 15% of the iceberg) is a direct reflection of what is hidden inside our heart (the bottom 85%). By simple observation we can develop an accurate assumption of that person’s beliefs and attitudes based on how they behave, act, dress, and speak. What is in someone’s heart will manifest in their behavior and manners.

Manners is nothing more than the Golden Rule. “Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” -Matthew 7:12 MSG. Treat others as you want to be treated. And find confidence knowing you might not always remember your grandmother’s etiquette rules, but the condition of your heart, your manners, are the real social skills we need to guide our families toward success.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou


P.S. I had one reader post a question to this article asking, “How did you answer the mom in your football story?!?” I really did leave you hanging on that story! So, sorry!

I have a philosophy in life if you bring everything back to its most simple origin, and ask basic questions of the person you are conversing with, you will usually be able to lead people to the answer without feeling you have corrected them in the process. Here is how the dialogue occurred:


Football Mom: “I don’t think we should ask children to use sir and ma’am. In our old school they could call teachers by their first name.”

Lisa Lou: “That’s interesting. Since you brought the subject up, do you mind if I ask you a question? If your child were meeting the President of the United States, how would you have your child address the President?”

Football Mom: “I would have then call him Mr. President or President….”

Lisa Lou: “Would you allow your child to call the President by his first name?”

Football Mom: “Of course not. He’s the President.”

Lisa Lou: “So, by your own admission, you actually DO believe in addressing adults with titles to show respect for authority, but ONLY if that person is of high enough social status that you feel they are worthy.”


BAM!!!!


It is important to remember the use of ma’am and sir is nothing more than using a title. Ma’am and Sir are titles and speaking to someone by using their title is one way we show respect.


Full disclosure! The follow-up conversation did not actually take place. The other mother and I became distracted during practice and I never had the opportunity to return to her statement. I probably would not have been as confrontational, but I have rehearsed this conversation in my head many times. Maybe another opportunity will arise…😊

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