It doesn’t matter if you are an aristocrat or a seamstress, if you are a brilliant speaker or a proficient diner, if you are a wine aficionado or an illustrious equestrian, or even if you can quote the poems of Shakespeare and Lord Byron verbatim – all that matters is how you treat people, their property, and their events.
There have been those who were very proficient in the rules of etiquette, except when it came to consideration. They knew how to eat at a formal dinner, dance at a Viennese ball, wear the most elegant of clothing – but their words were cruel. They tried to hide their hate, intolerance, and arrogance behind their graceful appearances. But they couldn’t. Because they couldn’t follow one very important rule: be considerate.
Hate, intolerance, and arrogance are not new traits. We all have them at varying degrees. But whether we have them at a high degree or low, they can emerge at any moment. For this reason, the rule, be considerate is useful. It controls them and other negative traits from rearing their ugly heads.
To be considerate, you must think of the other person before you think of yourself. You must think of their feelings, their likes and dislikes, their experiences and knowledge. To be considerate is to be respectful and outwardly tolerant.
The second most important rule to follow is: break rules of etiquette when it is appropriate. This rule, in many ways, is a component of consideration. If you want to better interact with people, professionally and socially, you need to know how to act in different circumstances. You need to be approachable. So, you need to be able to put people at ease.
Some events require formality, some people do too in order to feel at ease. But many more, require the opposite – informality. For example, if your hostess gives you one fork to eat your salad, entree, and dessert – don’t ask for a salad or dessert fork. Maybe she doesn’t use them. So, go with the flow and follow her lead. Asking for these forks will only make you feel comfortable, not her.
If you attend a rap concert, it is best to loosen yourself up a bit. Formal etiquette demands a sort of stiffness. For example, you shouldn’t laugh too loud. You shouldn’t dance in your chair or tap your foot to music. But we recommend that you do these things at these types of concerts. This kind of behaviour shows appreciation for the music. Being too stiff means you are too stuffy to enjoy yourself, or worse, you don’t like the music.
The same rule goes for a party of exuberant people. If you keep to your formalities and remain quiet and very proper, you will appear cold, boring, or worse, arrogant. And that will make you appear unapproachable and un-relate-able.
The key with breaking rules of etiquette is to do it with wisdom and grace. Choose the rules to break wisely. For example, at a rap concert, you can choose both to dance freely and to not curse. You can also choose to dance freely but with grace instead of with vulgarity.
We advise everyone to look at events and people that are not part of their milieu as education – ways to experience different lifestyles. It’s also a way to be different – to wear new styles, eat varying cuisine, listen to different music, speak to people you normally don’t. Try to always look at these occasions as opportunities to be grateful of.