Good Manners NEVER Go Out of Style

giovanni della casa


Although we need to cut human beings (including ourselves) some slack for their imperfections, I can hardly blame people who tell me they are turned off by a lack of manners from those around them. Let’s face it, etiquette is really about civility and consideration for others. Some of you might not be turned off by a dining mate who licks his/her fingers as they eat; a driver who picks his/her nose while driving; a date that regularly passes wind while in your presence, or a friend who eats off of your plate without having been invited to share. Others will be turned off, and it can actually ruin relationships!.

That said, if despite some initial tolerance, a gentle request does not result in behavior change, there is not much you can do other than let go and move on, gradually spending more time with those who are better versed in the kind of social graces that make your life harmonious and beautiful . No, it’s not a stuffy perspective. A lack of manners is a indicative of a lack of consideration for others. Both men and women, young and old, can display off-putting behaviors that make us want to walk (or run) the other way.

Distinguished Florentine poet Giovanni della Casa wrote Italy’s classic book on the rules and regulations of courtesy: Galateo: A Renaissance Treatise on Manners , in 1558. To counter a Zeitgeist occasionally infused with acts of barbarism , della Casa wanted to emphasize the importance of living a civil life of courtesy, harmony, and dignity. Della Casa covered every angle of etiquette from table manners to how one chooses to dress, because in his time, the outer person was believed to reveal who the person really was on the inside. Exterior grace, he believed, should be married with social conformity, in order to produce personal and collective eloquence. While good manners were considered to be the guidelines to the attainment of virtue, Della Casa  also categorized bad manners according to which of the senses the behavior offended. Vices and offensive conversation should be replaced by beauty in thought word and deed.

Della Casa’s campaign to promote good manners is hardly trivial. Evidence for that is the way you feel when you are in the company of someone who is maleducato!

My best advice is to be the example you want to see in those around you.  When we ourselves behave in a graceful, considerate manner, we might just become a role model for those around us.



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