If pleasures path you wish to see,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak, of whom you speak,
And when, and how, and where.
June 21, 1906
At 16 years of age, George Washington wrote his own 100 "Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation" and published them into a book. He lived by these 100 rules most of the rest of his life.
Some sharp students at The University of Virginia are updating these 100 rules in their own study called "The Civility Project." The following are The Sabot School of Etiquette's modern take on the first ten of these rules:
1. Washington: "Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are present."
1. SSOE: Stand up straight and for introductions, keep your hands at your side, look people directly in the eyes, and smile. Seeing the BAFTA awards on BBC this weekend, I saw the actress Kristin Stewart from the popular "Twilight" movies accept an award. I watched in horror as she vigorously scratched her head with all fingers and both hands, then continued running her fingers through her hair throughout her acceptance speech at the podium. Yuck!
2. Washington: "When in Company, put not your hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered."
2. SSOE: Keep your hands out of your pockets. Do not touch your head or fix your wedgie when in public. We have a local news reporter "man on the street" who reports his stories with one hand holding his mic and the other hand in his pant pocket. What is going on in there? Was he raised by wild dogs?
3. Washington: Shew Nothing yo your Friend that may affright him.
3. SSOE: Never embarrass another person. Leaders always make others feel special. As corny as it may sound, always speak positively so others will always want to be around you, who wouldn't?
4. Washington: In the Presence of Others, Sing not to yourself with a Humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet.4. SSOE: Keep your voice and hands to yourself. Keep your cellphone put away when with company as well. Do not whistle, hum or fiddle with your fingers in public. Also, if you are anything other than a heart surgeon, do not fiddle with your cell phone while at a meal or a party. One does not HAVE to be connected to all one's friends ALL the time. As my Father used to say: "If they need you, they will get you. They will call back." Let your friends wonder what mysterious delicacies you may be delighting in for a while. Be a bit in demand.
5. Washington: If you Cough, Sneeze, Sigh or Yawn, do it not loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.5. SSOE: Turn your head to the side if you must sneeze. Use a Kleenex or handkerchief. In an emergency, use your hand. Then, excuse yourself to the restroom and wash your hands. If you have bad allergies, and have a runny nose all the time, best only to "Dab" your nose with a tissue or hankie at the table. DO NOT blow your nose at the table. Best to go to the restroom. NEVER blow your nose into your napkin while at a meal. Gross! Cover your mouth when you cough or must yawn. Try to smile and breath in during a yawn in front of others if you cannot turn your head.
6. Washington: Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.6. SSOE: Pause look and listen. True listening is when you are not planning out what to say as soon as the other person is finished speaking. Always stand for introductions. Opinions on religion and politics still upset others and still should preferably not be discussed at parties. Pay attention to others when walking in a group.
7. Washington: Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half dressed.
7. SSOE: Gentlemen, DO NOT take off your dress jackets at semi-formal or formal events, even when dancing. I have been at many a formal wedding and Black Tie charity event when the Father of the Bride or Chairman has to ask a gentleman to put back on his jacket. Don't be that guy! Also, even if you are not a pajama guy, buy a robe and use it!
8. Washington: At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.8. SSOE: Move over in your circle if someone joins in the conversation, and do not start yelling your opinion over others in order to be heard. It is hard in this 24 hour world of constant communication to NOT copy the poor example of all the "Talking Heads" on TV and NOT over talk another person, or raise your voice in a growing circle of conversation. Most people like listening to their own voices, so if you must be heard, go home and write in a journal or start a blog.
9. Washington: Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.
9. SSOE: Do not spit in public and do not put your feet up onto the table in the kitchen or around food.
10. Washington: When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.
10. SSOE: Treat your seat like a church pew. Sit with both feet squarely on the floor. Do not sit on your ankles. Do not wrap your feet around your chair. In Asian and Middle Eastern countries, showing the sole of your shoe is considered rude and insulting.
Just a few first ten tips from three hundred years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same!