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The danger with 'manners' is that people often think immediately of protocol, tradition and formality.
When you interact with people who work in the service industries it is likely that you will encounter the appearance of manners. The appearance of manners has no substance.
Such manners are merely a professional job requirement. They represent a superficial act: a formality.
Phoney behaviour is insincere. It has no integrity. Protocol is a shield that people hide behind. It enables them to wear a mask and play a part.
Real manners stem from sensitivity, respect and consideration. They are not something you can learn by rote.
Addressing the instructor
The term 'sifu' is similar in some ways to the Japanese title 'sensei'. A sensei is a black belt exponent of at least 3rd dan (sandan). Sensei teaches the class.
Sifu is the correct form of address when talking to the founder of a taijiquan class.
In thanking somebody, be direct and honest. But do not make too much of your gratitude. If you fuss, you may embarrass the giver and your gratitude will seem insincere. A pantomime.
Earnest behaviour is always best. Make your thanks brief and meaningful.
The problem with rudeness
Modern people often take others for granted. In fact, it is perhaps the norm. There is an Asian saying: "One face for giving and one face for taking". This applies nicely.
The danger with being friendly only when you want something is that the giver soon notices... and pretty soon begins to withdraw. Subtly, but over time, quite noticeably.
What is 'tact'? It is the art of avoiding offence. Tact is a hard quality to cultivate. If you are overly tactful, you run the risk of becoming phoney.
If you lack tact entirely, you will insult people without realising it.
Perhaps the skill is to avoid controversy and opinion? Get to know the person you are talking to before venturing anything potentially offensive?
The danger with tact is that you do not want to censor yourself entirely for fear of upsetting somebody. The truth is that you will always upset someone.
What offends one person will most likely not offend another. We all have different values. Maybe the main thing is to avoid being deliberately contentious? A sense of humour helps.
Tact can also involve withholding information. This should not be undertaken with the intention of deceit, but rather to spare hurt or unnecessary concern.
How do you define 'good manners'? This is inevitably going to vary from person to person. What should not vary is the importance of sincerity. Being genuine and real is always significant.
Phoney behaviour represents a desire to 'play' somebody, and this is an unpleasant motive.
Being polite takes very little effort. It is not about remembering to behave a certain way. It is about listening. It is about respect. It is about being patient.
When you listen to someone, your attention should be entirely upon them and you should be mindful of their needs and character. Do not sit waiting for your turn to speak.
Be fully engaged with the other person - absorb what they are saying, notice the message, the gaps and the omissions. Be aware of body language and intent.
Everyone deserves your respect, even people who do little to earn it. When you show respect to every person you encounter, you encourage reciprocal conduct. You lose nothing by being respectful.
By being honest and open. Genuine and direct. Real.
Patience is becoming more scarce in modern society. Yet, it is such a valuable commodity. It arises from awareness and understanding.
From realising that things unfold in their own time and cannot be forced or bullied into being.
Patience grows from waiting. Nature has its own rhythm and its own timing. Only the calm, composed person will see this and respond accordingly. Allowing things to happen is essential.
Quiet detachment. The willingness to follow the changes. Attention. Awareness. Insight.
People are often willing to mess other people about. They make and break commitments, they fail to turn up when they've arranged to be someplace. What message is the 'reneger' giving?
That their time is more important than yours, that their responsibilities, concerns and interests take priority. Not very polite...
Good manners have much to do with emotions.
To make them ring true, one must feel them, not merely exhibit them.
18 March 1997
Last updated 29 August 2019