As an etiquette instructor, most people think my instruction revolves around lessons in poise and posture, the importance of a firm handshake, and proper table manners. What they don’t realize is that, before I get into any of the manners skills training, I begin each and every client session with a very frank conversation about the importance of a positive attitude as being essential to having good manners.
Learning how to be more positive actually led me to my interest in teaching manners in the first place. As a New Yorker, I was born with the natural tendency to look at the more cynical side of everything, often viewing the glass as half-empty rather than half-full. Growing up in a household with an unhappy parent certainly didn’t add to my ability to look on the brighter side of life. It certainly hasn’t been an easy road, however, I had the good fortune to marry someone who is eternally optimistic and has inspired me to move forward in the right direction.
A positive attitude has no prejudice. It is not bound by color, race, or religion. It does not care if one is rich or poor. Anyone has the right to display a positive attitude, and it makes that person much more attractive to others. As far as making a good first impression, a positive attitude (coupled with an ear-to-ear smile) is a sure-fire way to show others you are likable, friendly—and a full participant in your life.
When I decided to immerse myself in manners, I thought long and hard about this concept of a positive attitude and how it can affect our relationships, our interactions, and our everyday circumstances. I began to look at people of all ages and noticed how many walk around with what I call “mad on” faces, like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, barely able to crack a smile. And I realized that having a positive attitude—like having good manners—is a choice, and requires discipline and practice.
Here are two pieces of etiquette advice that I share with my clients, and that I aspire to live by on a daily basis.