There’s no denying that etiquette has changed a lot over the years. Traditional etiquette may have been more synonymous with subservience or conformity, but nowadays, it’s a lot more empowering than you might think.
Consider the fear you might have felt making a phone call when you were younger, or the awkwardness of greetings when you first entered the workforce. The purpose of modern etiquette is to equip you with a good understanding of social codes and behaviours, so it makes sense to teach our children these skills from a young age – but how?
We turned to Zarife Hardy, director of the Australian School of Etiquette, for more information.
“When children learn etiquette skills at a young age, we are educating them with confident social skills and codes of behaviours expected throughout life,” says Zarife. “If they can become familiar and confident with these skills at a young age then they will progress into adulthood with knowledge, capabilities and positive habits.”
Put simply, etiquette is about how we make others feel when we are with them. According to Zarife, the true meaning of etiquette is to show kindness and respect to others in all situations – from resolving a conflict, to enjoying a meal.
“Everyday manners are essential, and should be taught by parents from a young age,” says Zarife. “This can include how to introduce yourself and greet others, conversation skills, positive posture, speaking clearly with articulation, grooming and hygiene and table etiquette.”
And though etiquette may seem like a thing of the past, Zarife says that while certain codes have certainly changed, some skills are still just as important.
“Life has become very casual, so etiquette rules have changed to suit the style and pace of modern living,” says Zarife. “However, some of the essentials haven’t changed.”
Proper phone etiquette
“Always answer the phone with a smile on your face,” says Zarife. “This changes your voice and allows the caller to feel like you are happy to greet them. You should also answer the phone with a greeting and your name.”
Proper table etiquette
Table etiquette is a set of rules used and observed when eating, Zarife explains – including the use of utensils, glassware, plates and various foods – though these rules can change depending on the context.
“Each family sets their own standards for how strictly these rules are to be used, AND different cultures observe different rules for table manners,” says Zarife. “Table manners also differ from casual to formal.”
Proper greeting etiquette
“Teach your children to use positive eye contact, greet someone with a smile, have strong posture and use a clear and happy voice,” says Zarife.
Overall, while Zarife understands that teaching children etiquette can be hard, it is a skill they will take with them through life.
“Children learn the most from their parents and the way they behave and speak, so really try to model polite behaviours, positive relationships and body language,” says Zarife. “Even if children think it is boring and silly, the communication skills, kindness and confidence learned through etiquette are setting them up to successfully navigate situations and relationships for the rest of their life.”