One is apt to think of Etiquette as being use to none but brides or diplomats or a person lately elected to political office. Considering manners even in their superficial aspect, no one – unless he be a recluse who comes in contact with no other human being, can fail to benefit from the advantages of a proper, courteous and likable approach. Certainly the greatest asset that a man or woman or even child can have is charm. And charm can not exist without manners-meaning by this, not necessarily manner that precisely follow a set of rules, but yet manners that are smooth and polished by the continuous practice of kind impulses. It is hard to say why the word “etiquette” is so inevitably considered merely a synonym of the word “correct,” as though it were no more than the fixed answer to a sum in arithmetic. In fact, it might be well to pull the word “correct” out by the roots and substitute it for “common sense”. What we must look at is what does Etiquette and common sense do for us? Does it help make life pleasanter? Does it make the social situations run more smoothly? Does it add to beauty? Is it essential to the code of good taste or to ethics? If it serves us any of these purposes, it is something to be cherished. You can see the importance of Etiquette when you look at the thousands of detailed rules essential to all ceremonial procedures, knowing when to sit and when to stand, what to say and what to do upon this or that occasion, as in a church service. It would be shocking to have people trotting in and out of pews, talking out loud or otherwise disrupting the service. For this reason we have set rules for all ceremonial functions, so that marriages, christenings, funerals, as well as Sunday services, shall be conducted with ease and smoothness. It is also essential for ease in many other areas of living. The real point to be made is that rules of etiquette have not been put in place to make those who know them seem important and to make those who happen not to know them feel less adequate.
Actually the so-called rules are nothing but the findings of long experience handed down for reasons of practical use. This does not mean that the principles of good taste, or of beauty, or of consideration for the rights or feelings of others can be discarded-ever! As a matter of fact, good taste is necessarily helpful! It must be the suitable thing, the comfortable thing, the useful thing for the occasion, the place, and the time, or it is not in good taste.
Some of us are likely to assume a rich man as a gentleman. No qualification could be further from the truth, since the quality of a gentleman is necessarily measured by what he is and never by what he has. We’ve all heard the term “nature’s nobleman” meaning a man of innately beautiful character who, never having even heard of the code, follows it by instinct. In other words, the code of the thoroughbred, whether it be applied to a man or a woman, or to a half-grown child, is the code of instinctive decency, ethical integrity, self-respect and loyalty. Decency means not merely propriety of speech and conduct, but honesty but a delicacy of motive and of fairness in judging the motives of others. Loyalty means faithfulness not only to friends, but to principles. Etiquette, if it is to be of more than trifling use, must go far beyond the mere mechanical rules of procedure or the equally automatic precepts of conventional behavior. Actually etiquette is most deeply concerned with every phase of ethical impulse or judgement and with every choice or expression of taste, since what one is, is far greater importance than what one appears to be. A knowledge of etiquette is of course essential to one’s decent behavior, just as clothing is essential to one’s decent appearance; and precisely as one wears the latter without being self-conscious of having on shoes and perhaps gloves, one who has good manners is equally unself-conscious in the observance of etiquette, the precepts of which must be so thoroughly ingrained that their observance is a matter of instinct rather than of conscious obedience.