In Western terms it was William Wilberforce, the 19th century champion for the abolition of the slave-trade, who coined the phrase and terminology “manners”, encouraging considerate behaviour towards others. In a purely social context, we generally prefer spending time with people with pleasant social habits rather than poor ones. Nobody likes to sit in a restaurant with the person at the adjacent table picking his or her nose.
On the nose front, however, there are cultural differences as my mother-in-law found out as she travelled in a taxi in Indonesia years ago. She was chastised by the driver who exclaimed that it was the height of disgusting behaviour to blow your nose into a small piece of cotton and then put it back in your pocket – he then proceeded to blow his nose straight out of the taxi window onto the street!
Enough of noses … Manners and courtesy, of course, also relate greatly to what we say; the words we use and how we say them. We have all experienced the lie that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. It is a great question to consider what sort of verbal culture we are creating in our workplaces and homes. We expect our employees to speak to us and their colleagues and clients with politeness and warmth so we indeed need to treat them with the same considerateness.
I read recently about ‘Mindful Communication’ where readers of the Huffington Post were encouraged to really consider what they were about to say before they said it, ie. “Is what I am about to say to this person how I would like to be spoken to?” If we are not sure then even writing it down and rephrasing the communication could save unnecessary offence, difficulty and upset.
We can be careful, as good communicators, that the words we are choosing to use are creating a positive environment around us, our colleagues and employees and so make for a happier workplace. Much has been said about the dangers of being misunderstood by poorly thought-through texts and emails, but this continues to be something for excellent leaders and communicators to think about with regards to our verbal comms.