Manners Matter

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If you’ve ever had to deal with the thoughtless behavior of someone, you’ll appreciate this story about the great composer and pianist Franz Liszt.

The virtuoso musician once found himself at odds with a very important member of his audience. The czar of Russia, Nicholas I, made a late entrance during Liszt’s concert. Even after being seated, the czar continued to talk out loud with members of his entourage. Liszt realized that Nicholas had no intention of ending his discourse, so he stopped playing and bowed his head. 

Noticing the silence, Nicholas dispatched one of his aides to find out why the pianist was no longer playing. 

“Music herself should be silent when Nicholas speaks,” Liszt replied. 

After that, Liszt was able to finish his recital with the czar’s full attention.

Poor manners are difficult to navigate around in most arenas. No matter what your rank or position, there is no excuse for rudeness. Bad manners are bad form. 

At work, where many of us spend a large share of our waking hours, bad manners are bad business. Good manners build good relationships. 

The key to a good relationship at work can be as simple as saying “please” and” thank you” and asking people how their children are or how their spouses are, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review on managing your career. Manners are the lubricating oil of any organization – or any society, for that matter. It’s a law of nature that two moving bodies are going to create friction, and it is the concept of manners that keeps chaos at bay.

Good manners are not phony or forced. They are a habit that has been developed and nurtured so that they are an automatic response. Good manners are not an invitation to let others take advantage of you either.

Rather, they provide you with the confidence and responses that will allow you to take the high road no matter how nasty the other party gets. 

Good manners also provide a leg up when it’s time to find a new job, whether it’s starting your career or moving up the ladder. 

Getting your foot in the door is hard enough, so don’t let your manners slam the door on you. Looking for a job has always required impeccable behavior on the part of the job-seeker. According to etiquette consultant Jodi R. R. Smith (, it’s important that job-seekers not overlook propriety in their search. Here are a few of Smith’s tips: 

  • Be professional – especially when communicating electronically. There are a lot of people out there crafting outrageous e-mails when they are inquiring about job openings, Smith says. Don’t relax the old rules of job-hunting and interviewing just because you’re using modern modes of communication. As Smith says, an e-mail that reads, ‘Dude, so what is this job about?’ just isn’t going to cut it. 
  • Have an error-free resume ready to go. When a recruiter calls, you should be able to e-mail your résumé to him or her while you’re speaking
  • Make sure you have a professional-sounding voicemail message on whatever phone number you give to recruiters. You don’t want a potential interviewer to call you and get a long, silly message you’ve designed for your friends’ amusement.
  • Smile and be pleasant. Your disposition makes the first impression on interviewers. Extend kindness to everyone you meet – including receptionists and anyone else who may not be involved in the interview process. 

Interpersonal relations will always make a difference. Displaying good manners will never hurt you, so don’t be afraid to be the nice person. You can still be funny, serious, self-confident and determined. 

The old adage still holds true: You only get one chance to make a good first impression. 

A man was seated on the bus having an animated conversation with someone via cell phone. He fumed. He swore. He shouted and swore a lot more. The other passengers dared not look at him for fear of being on the receiving end of his ire. 

“I need to get off here!” he shouted as he raced to the front of the bus and disembarked. 

“Excuse me sir,” the bus driver said to the man, “you left something behind.” 

The man stood outside of the bus checking his pockets. He then asked, “What did I leave?” 

“A very bad impression,” the bus driver replied as he closed the door and drove away.

Mackay’s Moral: Good manners are never a bad idea


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