Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Health Benefits of Good Manners

The Other Side of Civility... In which the university's expert on all things civil (politely) argues that our good manners aren't just good for others — they're good for us, too. – By P.M. Forni, Illustration by David Plunkert


Tom, a supervisor from marketing, notifies Rob that he has been unhappy for a while with Rob's teamwork. Rob eventually complains to Tom's boss that he is being singled out unfairly by his incompetent supervisor. Things come to a head in the company's cafeteria when Tom accuses Rob of disloyalty and end-running. As anger-laced words fly back and forth, a cascade of catecholamines is released into Tom and Rob's brains and bloodstreams. Catecholamines are hormones and neurotransmitters that, together with the stress hormone cortisol, are main factors in the stress response. They mobilize the body's resources in the presence of perceived danger. As Tom and Rob raise their voices, they are totally under the influence of these endogenous chemicals. From dilation of the pupils to more of their blood being sent to their brains, hearts, and muscles, to glycogen being broken down to glucose in their bloodstreams for fuel, they are in full fight-or-flight alert.

This activation of their bodies' emergency systems, however, is not without a price. Neurochemicals such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol increase blood pressure, sometimes to dangerously high levels. They affect the metabolism of cholesterol and triglycerides, which contribute to atherosclerosis. Well known to weaken the immune system, they block the activity of the macrophages (the killers of tumor cells). Although one catecholamine-assisted altercation will not kill Tom or Rob, a repeated engagement of their stress response will add substantially to the wear and tear of their organs and blood vessels. If they find themselves often in the grip of hostility and anger, they may sooner or later face serious cardiovascular disease and other ailments. One of the wisest things Tom and Rob can do for themselves is choosing congeniality as their default mode of relating to the world. This time, however, they go their separate ways in a huff.

As children, most of us looked at good manners as something between boring and burdensome that we were expected to do, at our parents' prodding, for others' sake. Growing up, we vaguely perceived good manners as good but still saw them as benefiting others. This view has clear merit. Civility, politeness, and good manners (which I treat as one here) are indeed "something" we do for others. We are civil when we believe that other people's claim to comfort and happiness is as valid as our own, and we back up belief with action (such as letting someone merge into the flow of traffic).

Good manners, however, are also something we do for our own sake. They are good for us because as a basic code of relational skills they help us manage our relationships, which are crucial to our well-being and health. Although as adults we may have developed a more sophisticated understanding of manners, chances are that our early bias (that they are for others' sake) still looms large. This may lead us to the wrong conclusion that in the fast-paced, highly competitive and stress-laden environment in which we live, good manners are a luxury we can't afford. I suggest that we balance this view by looking instead at good manners as a precious life-improvement tool for the very people who have them. Maybe slowing down in the name of kindness would allow us to connect meaningfully with someone. Maybe this would help us in the pursuit of our goals — both professional and personal. This is as good a time as any to look at the other side of manners: the expedient side.

"Manner" comes from manus, the Latin word for "hand." Thus, manners are ways of handling. We exhibit good manners when we handle well our daily encounters with others — when we handle others, that is, with care and consideration. As relational skills based on empathy, good manners prove crucial when it comes to establishing and maintaining connection and rapport. Humans are hyper-social creatures. We inherited the genes of ancestors who banded together and shared their prey at the end of the day's hunt. Group identity inevitably shapes our personal identity. "Plays well with others" defines the well-adjusted child, and "team player" the employee every workplace wants. If life is a relational experience, then we'd better hone our abilities to relate. As hyper-social beings, our happiness or unhappiness depends, to a large extent, upon the quality of our relationships. As a general rule, better manners mean more harmonious relationships and thus an increased quality of life.

According to clinical psychologist Arthur Ciaramicoli, the co-author, with Katherine Ketcham, of The Power of Empathy, empathy benefits the very person who has this emotional ability: "Individuals who have high relational skills are more successful personally and professionally. People who have developed the capacity for empathy, in particular, have the ability to understand and respond to others based on the facts discerned rather than with generalities. When we know how to listen with compassion and grace we will always attract others in whatever walk of life we live. Corporate managers, educators, etc., all are more successful when they have the ability to read others accurately. Of course, in our personal lives, these abilities make us better friends, spouses, and parents," Ketcham says.

By being good citizens of our little world of family and friends, we build the foundation of our social support. Common sense and good physicians agree: Social connections are good for us. The meaningful presence of others in our lives helps us remain healthy — both physically and mentally. It is good to be a member of a family, a religious congregation, a charity initiative, or a support group. We all need loyal friends, empathetic co-workers, good neighbors, and thoughtful strangers around us. Isolation invites illness. To cope and thrive we need social support. To build and manage social support, however, we need social skills.

When we treat others with kindness and consideration, we show them that we value them as persons. This motivates them to remain in our lives, and as a result we continue to enjoy the rewards of connecting. Until three or four generations ago, a large amount of the support we needed came from our extended families. Today, as we often turn to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers for support and care, being likable can be a substantial advantage. An elementary but powerful truth to always keep in mind is that social skills strengthen social bonds. Social skills are thus an invaluable quality-of-life asset — in fact, they are nothing less than determinants of destiny.

The strengthening of social bonds gives us opportunities to confide. Confiding is good medicine. As we open ourselves up to a good listener, we get our sorrows off our chests, gain insights into our predicaments, and invite sanity into our lives. Disclosing is often the beginning of healing. Pioneers in mind-body medicine such as James Pennebaker, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, and Ronald Glaser have paved the way to the scientific realization that confiding is also good for our immune system. There is a direct correlation between self-disclosure and resistance to disease. It is in part thanks to our relational skills that we manage to make and keep the friends among whom we can choose our confidants. The more trustworthy friends we have and the closer we are to them, the more likely it is that we find among them the right persons with whom to open up.

If you are considerate, people will like you and trust you; if they like you and trust you, they will let you help them; by helping them, you will help yourself. The ability to maintain good relationships makes us successful at helping and volunteering, which feels good and is good for us. Researcher Allan Luks has studied extensively the state of well-being he calls "helper's high." This state, similar to a "runner's high," occurs in people who volunteer for good causes. Luks believes that it is the release of endorphins in the volunteer's body that allows him or her to experience elation followed by calm. Although less intensely, helper's high also occurs in volunteers when they recall the experience of helping. Especially when it is not felt as an obligation, helping appears to release hormones and neurotransmitters that strengthen the immune system and are generally good for your health.

Feeling good about ourselves and our relationships makes us more inclined to laugh. From time immemorial, human beings have felt that laughing is good for them. Now we have the science to back up intuition. Laughter increases blood flow, reduces the effects of stress (by reducing the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone that can cause so much cardiovascular damage), and gives our immune system a boost. Laughter appears to be accompanied by the release of endorphins, the biochemical compounds that suppress pain and induce states of well-being. Happy people are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure and heart disease. The inclination to laugh seems to have a protective effect on our hearts. Although our individual propensity to laugh may be genetically programmed, the circumstances of life will also determine the amount of laughter we enjoy. Relational skills can make us happier and give us the gift of much-needed hearty, healthful laughs.

Common sense and good physicians agree: Social connections are good for us. The meaningful presence of others in our lives helps us remain healthy. Such positive emotions are not only good for our health, they are good for our thinking as well, according to psychiatrist and author Edward Hallowell: "Basically, emotion acts as the doorkeeper to advanced thinking. When a person is in a good mood, feeling content and in harmony with his surroundings, the door is wide open. He can do what his cerebral cortex is uniquely equipped to do: think flexibly; perceive irony and humor; perceive shades of gray, subtlety, complexity; bear with the frustration of not knowing the answer, and allowing conflicting points of view simultaneously to balance in his mind without either overpowering the other; wait, before bringing premature closure; ask for help; empathize with others; give to others; put the needs of others before his own; give help; inspire others."

Civility, according to Yale law professor Stephen Carter, "is the sum of the many sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of living together." In our times of relentless self-indulgence, it is good to keep in mind that restraint and sacrifice are necessary for functioning well among others. Yes, sacrifice is part of civility. It is a sacrifice, however, that we make for our own sake as well as others'. (Also, we often reach a point where we do not perceive acting civilly as a sacrifice anymore, but rather as a necessary part of who we are.) Civility is powerfully linked to expediency — it is a very efficient and captivating way of pursuing self-interest.

Let us go back to Tom and Rob. In this second version of events, instead of firing an angry salvo, Tom calls Rob to his office and suggests that they try to resolve their differences rationally and fairly. Tom admits to criticizing Rob without giving him clear alternative directions. In turn, Rob acknowledges giving Tom's boss an unduly harsh assessment of Tom's abilities as a supervisor. They both apologize and pledge remedial action. As they reminisce about their long-standing employment in the company, their contested issues seem to be settling themselves, and the goodwill is almost palpable on both sides. Although there is no fight-or-flight reaction this time, it does not mean that their coming together in a civil and congenial way has no neuroendocrine basis.

Just being in the friendly presence of one another rewards Tom and Rob with lowering levels of stress and as a consequence a better functioning of their immune systems. Their stress reduction is aided by the release of the hormone oxytocin, of growth hormone, and of EOPs, the brain opioids. Their congenial mindset is connected to an increased level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in their brains. Together with keeping their hostility in check, serotonin has the effect of invigorating their sense of self-esteem, and thus makes them less defensive and more cooperative. The oxytocin that, in the meanwhile, is generously released, strengthens the social bond between the two co-workers. Under the sway of their feel-good hormones, Tom and Rob can think more clearly and in more sophisticated ways. As their conversation wanders, they exchange good, imaginative ideas on how to run their unit: a welcome, unexpected result of a meeting called to administer intensive care to a relationship between co-workers. – Johns Hopkins Magazine, 2003 


For the article, P.M. Forni, author of “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct, consulted Johns Hopkins cardiologists Ilan Wittstein and James Weiss, psychiatrist and author Edward Hallowell, Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey, clinical psychologist and author Arthur Ciaramicoli, Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Rudolf Hoehn-Saric, University of Maryland neurologist Stephen Reich, and Johns Hopkins neurologist Guy McKhann. 


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Profiles in Etiquette – P.M. Forni

P.M. Forni, the Director of the Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, in his office in Baltimore in 2007. “Acts of violence are often the result of an exchange of acts of rudeness that spiral out of control,” he said. - Credit Andy Nelson / The Christian Science Monitor

P.M. Forni, Who Argued for ‘Choosing Civility,’ Dies at 67 Dec. 7, 2018

P. M. Forni, a professor of early Italian literature who became a leading exponent of civility in our own discourteous times, died on Dec. 1 in Towson, Maryland. He was 67. His wife, Virginia H. Forni, said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Forni was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore when, in 1997, he became the principal founder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, which not only examined the importance of civility in human society but also encouraged the practice of it on campuses and in communities through campaigns with bumper stickers, buttons and speaking programs.

Dr. Forni, who directed the project (now known as the Civility Initiative) for many years, also wrote two books on the topic, “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct,” published in 2002, and “The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude” (2010). “The first book is how not to be rude,” Virginia Forni explained in a telephone interview, “and the second book is what to do when other people are rude to you.”

The 25 rules he set out in “Choosing Civility” were not particularly surprising; they included “Speak Kindly” and “Keep It Down (and Rediscover Silence).” But they resonated. The book, which has been translated into German and Italian, is still frequently cited in articles and speeches, as is its follow-up.

Civility, to Dr. Forni, was not just a matter of learning and observing rules of good manners. It was something with very real consequences. Civility means less stress, which has advantages like improved health, safer driving and more productivity at work.

Lack of civility, he argued, is also more than a matter of semantics. “Acts of violence are often the result of an exchange of acts of rudeness that spiral out of control,” he told The Christian Science Monitor in 2007. “Disrespect can lead to bloodshed. By keeping the levels of incivility down we keep the levels of violence down.” But Dr. Forni didn’t necessarily have a sky-is-falling view of the current state of human interactions.

The word “civility,” he noted in “Choosing Civility,” “derives from the Latin civitas, which means ‘city,’ especially in the sense of civic community.” Thus, said Daniel L. Buccino, who now directs the Civility Initiative, Dr. Forni considered the subject from the long view. – By Neil Genzlinger for the NYTimes


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Etiquette and Gallantry

Gallantry first appeared in France in the mid-17th century as a code of conduct between the sexes in high society and an art form. “Booker-opens row over whether French gallantry is a ‘poisonous myth’ or national treasure in France” opined a recent article in The Telegraph 
 Credit: Pilgrimage to the Isle of Cythera 1717, Jean-Antoine Watteau, in The Telegraph 2018

Real Test of True Gallantry

One may discipline himself to gallantry. The young exquisite, who sees to it that his fair  at a ball does not expose herself to cold during the intervals that lapse between the dances, performs a graceful act of gallantry to the standard of which he might never have been educated, had it not been for his experience in good society. As a rule, it is supposed of course, that he delights in the performance of such a duty, and yet, who can say whether or not the idea of looking out for another’s health would ever have suggested itself to him, if it had not been for the discipline of etiquette?

As it is, he has performed all of the duties in sight, and yet it were wiser not to confer the title of nobility upon him until the morrow, when it may be ascertained whether he has given out kindness in the same proportion to his mother, or even to the female domestic who is intrusted with the care of his apartment. True gallantry consists quite as largely in the doing of kindnesses to inferiors as to equals or superiors, but its strongest test lies undoubtedly in the manners usually affected in the home.—Jennie L. Leibold in Jenness-Miller Magazine, 1891


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Etiquette, Custom and Conscience

In the 1980 historical miniseries, Shogun, John Blackthorn, self-conciously bathing with Mariko, is the first English person to arrive in Japan and must find a way to survive in a culture which considers him to be a barbarian due to his European habits (eating the meat of birds he has killed, eating with one’s hands and rarely bathing.)– photo source Pinterest


It is said that “it is conscience that makes cowards of us all,” and there is much talk ot the “whisperings or conscience,” the “wee small voice” and all that; but whence comes that voice? Is there an immutable principal of right and wrong placed somewhere in the mind that tells one of right and wrong? Or is, it not custom —that to which we have been accustomed? A writer in the New York Sun says that travelers in Japan tell of the unconcern with which a Japanese will take a bath in full publicity, and the custom has impressed foreigners as immodest. 

An Englishman who has been long in the country says there is really nothing immodest in the promiscuous bathing of men, women and children from a Japanese point of view. With them, cleanliness is the object sought for, and the etiquette of the bathroom differs from the etiquette of the parlor. With Europeans, he says, the attitude of waltzers is only permitted when the music is played. It is something like this with the Japanese bathers. When the necessary operation of washing or doing other work requires it, to strip becomes a duty. 

On the other hand, a Japanese woman would scorn to appear decollete. To her eye, our ballrooms are an astonishment, and the exposure of the person for display is incomprehensible. This writer thinks that the Japanese are not excelled by their Western brethren in modesty.– Weekly Colusa Sun, 1892


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Stickpin Etiquette and Diplomacy

No stranger to etiquette is the new social arbiter. For years, at various diplomatic posts here and abroad, he has had opportunity to learn what to do, how to do it and at just what time. First, as private secretary to the American Minister at Peking, then as Diplomatic Secretary at Constantinople, Paris and until recently at London, to say nothing of service in the State Department at Washington, have attended to that. This side of 50 years of age, one of the best and most correctly groomed men in the diplomatic corps from pince-nez to pearl stickpin in his cravat, he is sartorially perfect.

Washington – What with a short session of Congress and an early Lent resulting in the White House having perhaps its most crowded social calendar in years, the appearance of Ferdinand Lammot Belin in Washington takes on real significance. Belin has been just appointed to the job of social arbiter at the executive mansion. Upon his shoulders rests the responsibility of steering the social program of the White House quickly, yet faultlessly, along its brief way. And from all indications, he is well-equipped for the task. So those observers of the capital’s haute monde seem to think at any rate. Lavish praise of his ability was seen in the papers when his appointment was announced. It was pointed out that Belin is correct—and the “correct” was capitalized throughout. And there was no doubt in the minds of these writers but that he could tell off-hand where Alice Longworth will sit, as well as the weight of the gold braid on a general’s epaulet. 

No stranger to etiquette is the new social arbiter. For years, at various diplomatic posts here and abroad, he has had opportunity to learn what to do, how to do it and at just what time. First, as private secretary to the American Minister at Peking, then as Diplomatic Secretary at Constantinople, Paris and until recently at London, to say nothing of service in the State Department at Washington, have attended to that. This side of 50 years of age, one of the best and most correctly groomed men in the diplomatic corps from pince-nez to pearl stickpin in his cravat, he is sartorially perfect. But with all these qualifications it is by no means an easy task which he finds confronting him. The White House social program cannot be inaugurated until after congress convenes on December 1st. And it must be concluded before Lent starts on February 18. 

There are 14 official functions on the calendar. It’s up to Belin and his associates to wedge these in during the last ’3l days of 1930 and the first 48 days of 1931. Included in this list are the customary five State Dinners—to the cabinet, to the Vice President, to the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court, to the Speaker of the House and to the diplomats. Receptions, including the famous New Year reception to the general public, complete the list. All eyes will turn to the White House this year. Last season’s official entertaining in the capital suffered greatly, due to the deaths of Chief Justice Taft and Secretary of War Good and subsequent periods of mourning.– Herbert Plummer, Washington Correspondence for San Pedro Pilot, 1930

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 



Monday, December 3, 2018

Etiquette and Chinese Ancestors

Animated ancestors in the Disney’s tale of a feisty, Chinese teen heroine, “Mulan.”






Ancestor worship still exists and as this is one of the teachings of Confucius. Shantung China, so near the grave of Confucius, is perhaps one of the places to see it at its best. Every Chinese household has within its doors an ancestral hall, a shrine in which are deposited the tablets of the deceased ancestors. 

Every clan has also an ancestral temple which forms a rallying point for its members who come to join in the ritual as new shrines are to be set up. These tablets are slips of wood about one foot high and three inches wide, placed upright on a pedestal, and having inscribed on each side the name, rank, date of birth and death. They remind one of a tombstone kept in a home instead of being placed at a grave.

After the consecration of the tablet, a dinner is spread for the dead. Then money and clothing are set out. These are left on the table for several days. The eldest son is compelled to go through an elaborate ceremony in carrying food and wine to the burial place for several days, and to say prayers before the tablet when he returns home. For this reason, the Chinese are anxious to have a son. 


If there is no son and no one to perform the ceremony, the ghost, hungry and ill-clothed, is destined to wander about the earth. They are especially particular in the observance of ceremony and have a set etiquette. For instance, the first thing one man does upon meeting another is, to ask what each member of the family is doing, his age, his full name, and if he is married, his wife’s name, and whether they have any sons (for it seems that girls do not count). After that they talk about anything they like. – Los Angeles Hearald, 1919

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Manners, Character and Young Girls

That certain feeling you get when a relative asks if that hot mess of a girl can move in with you. – “First, send your girl to visit briefly some good mother, whose children are now matured and perhaps gone from the home place. I know of one instance of an older mother of this class, who welcomes afternoon calls from young girls and who enjoys with them a delightful, chummny mother-and-daughter relation.”














Uplifting the Girl – She Needs the Acquaintance of Some Good Woman of Character Whose Example Will Be Beneficial

Do not take it for granted that your growing girl will learn from casual observation all she ought to know about the character of good women. Frills and superficialities are not suited to give your daughter even a glimpse into the wealth of sterling qualities which lie beneath and which constitute the substantial part of the character of all the better class of womankind. So long as a girl keeps her eye fixed on the fads and frills of society she will be unhappy, since these light things give satisfaction only for the passing moment. 

It is the deep, rich qualities of an earnest, reverent human personality which are best suited to inspire the young truth seeker and make her strong and willing in the face of her own duties. However, do not assume that your growing girl will learn from casual acquaintance and observation all she needs to know about the character and manners of good women, but plan definitely to have her come into close relationship with a few of the best of these, as follows: 

First, send your girl to visit briefly some good mother, whose children are now matured and perhaps gone from the home place. I know of one instance of an older mother of this class, who welcomes afternoon calls from young girls and who enjoys with them a delightful, chummny mother-and-daughter relation. She always sends her girl caller away greatly cheered, but much sobered and reflective upon the deeper affairs of life. Here, motherliness, the greatest force in womankind, may be seen doing one of its best forms of service. Now ask your girl to try to discern what makes her matronly hostess so attractive and lovable. Is it the garments she wears—and these should of course be well suited to such a worthy personality—or isn’t her affectionate trustful and open-hearted manners? Ask your daughter to find out how this goodly soul thinks, how she behaves toward others in general,  and how she regards life at large. 

Second, have your girl come close to the best accessible type of domestic-minded woman, and here learn some of the further laws governing a helpful and successful personality. How does this woman manage so well to hold a supremacy over her multitudinous household affairs ? How does she economize time in cooking, sewing, mending and the like, so as to keep all those matters evenly balanced? Such work is slowly killing many other women. Why is it not injuring this one? What is the secret of her serenity in the midst of possible confusion? 

What I especially wish your bright young girl to realize is this; The vanities and foibles of women are of very little consequence indeed, as compared with that abundant record of unselfish and self-sacrificing performances which so much more fittingly characterize the quieter hours of the ordinary good women of today. Bring these better things sharply to the attention of your daughter, give them a large place in her mind and heart, and she in turn win pass them on in service of the light-minded young girls who may look to her for a pattern in the years to come. – Dr. Wm. A. McKeever, Los Angeles Herald, 1919



Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia