Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor. – Emily Post

Ever visited or lived in a city where workers, neighbors, or drivers were overly rude and callous? Ever gotten mad, annoyed, sad, or stressed out from experiencing this kind of behavior? Ever felt responsible or guilty for the failure of a friendship or a group due to something you said or did?

elegant woman on swing contemplating why etiquette is importantEtiquette is more than knowing which fork to use and how to properly sit in a chair. It’s more than knowing how to appear refined. Etiquette at its core is about providing people a way to create a better society and a happier community. How? By offering a guide – a list of rules on how people should behave with others, how people should behave with other people’s properties, and how people should behave with themselves

If you were to read an etiquette book and contemplate the reasons behind each rule, you will find that respect, kindness, and consideration guide the majority of the rules. Without these three characteristics practiced often by a sufficient number of people, society would slowly decay to one of chaos, anger, hate, violence, and disrespect. For this reason and many more, etiquette is important.

Here are some examples to further illustrate the reasons behind practicing etiquette.

Rule: Do not talk with your mouth full of food.

Reason: Talking with your mouth full of food leaves you open to many mishaps. For example, if you have food in your mouth, you are more likely to spit some of it into the face of another while talking. You are also more likely to choke on your food or have a coughing fit as it is ingested the wrong way. And you are more likely to give a view of masticated food in your mouth. Have you ever seen someone talking with a mouth full of chocolate candy? Some sights are better left unseen.

Rule: Do not bring your pet to any home you are visiting, unless the hostess invites your pet.

Reason: In this case, pets usually refer to dogs and cats. The behaviour of cats and dogs can be unpredictable as well as people’s reaction to them. You cannot control if a dog will have a barking fit or if a cat will jump onto a couch. And think how discomforting it would be for your hostess to have her rug urinated on, sofa scratched, or figurine knocked over. Also bringing pets on a visit can be distracting in that both the visitor and the hostess will constantly be focusing on the pet instead of each other. This sort of distraction should be avoided unless desired by both parties.

Rule: Do not sit with your legs wide open.

Reason: This rule is meant to prevent a lady from showing her panties. It also provides a lady a guide for arranging herself on a chair. By bringing the legs together, a lady’s lower half looks smaller. This will not only improve the aesthetics of her sitting-pose, but she will also appear less dominating, thus creating a more like-able appearance. This rule also helps others. By sitting with legs closed, those across from the lady will not be distracted with a glimpse of a panty or a private area. It also helps open up room for others, thus showing consideration. The wider apart the legs are, the more space taken.

Rule: Do not use the dinner fork to eat dessert when a dessert fork or spoon is provided.

Reason: If multiple utensils are provided for you to eat with, it is best you use them. Using the proper fork or spoon for a course will not only please your hostess by showing consideration for the time and effort she spent setting the table, but it will also help you enjoy your food more. Have you ever looked at your fork after eating chicken with gravy or mashed potatoes? If yes, you will know there are always remnants of your dinner on your fork once you are finished eating. To use the same fork to eat your dessert will most definitely change the taste of your dessert, at least the first couple of bites. Food is not just meant to be eaten mindlessly like a robot. It is meant to be enjoyed… savoured. And food specifically curated and served by a hostess should be given even more proper attention as a sign of appreciation and consideration.

Paris, France : why etiquette is important by balissande finishing school

If you have ever debated in your mind the value of etiquette, here are some quotes you should spend the next week contemplating…

    • Freedom without rules doesn’t work. And communities do not work unless they are regulated by etiquette. – Judith Martin
    • A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot. – Robert A Heinlein
    • Etiquette is all human social behavior. If you’re a hermit on a mountain, you don’t have to worry about etiquette; if somebody comes up the mountain, then you’ve got a problem. It matters because we want to live in reasonably harmonious communities. – Judith Martin
    • Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor. – Emily Post
    • When a society abandons its ideals just because most people can’t live up to them, behavior gets very ugly indeed. – Judith Martin
    • Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naïve, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as “empty” “meaningless,” or “dishonest,” and scorn to use them. No matter how “pure” their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best. – Robert A Heinlein
    • When a community lacks basic manners two things happen. Good people start moving out looking for a community that meets their standards, and people prepared to accept lower standards move in. – The Naive Idealist
    • Etiquette does not render you defenseless. If it did, even I wouldn’t subscribe to it. But rudeness in retaliation for rudeness just doubles the amount of rudeness in the world. – Judith Martin