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What are Good Manners?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Good manners are a set of behaviors which mark someone as a civilized and cultured member of a society. Manners are usually taught from a very young age, with some people receiving additional training in etiquette, formal rules of conduct which apply to a variety of situations. Someone who lacks good manners may be considered boorish or inappropriate, and he or she may be at a disadvantage in many social situations.

The precise behaviors involved in good manners vary from place to place. Cultural traditions play an important role in manners, as do religious beliefs, social status, and economic class. What may be proper behavior in the White House may be considered grossly inappropriate in the Kremlin, while a standard of behavior which is perfectly acceptable in rural Greece might not be considered appropriate in a meeting with the Queen of England. As a general rule, people learn the manners which pertain to their particular social, economic, and cultural situation, and travelers must learn specific rules of conduct to fit in as they visit other societies.

Manners pertain from everything from how to introduce people to how to eat. While the precise nature of proper manners may vary, the underlying principles do not. Good manners involve treating people with respect and courtesy, and in making sure that other people feel comfortable in a variety of situations. The old Biblical rule of “do as you would be done by” is sometimes used as an illustration of how manners are supposed to work.

Someone who has been properly trained will usually show more respect and deference to people who are older, as well as people who hold senior positions of authority. Proper manners usually involve using respectful forms of address, such as formal titles, and being attuned to social situations to use the activities of others as behavioral cues. For example, someone who has never eaten a formal dinner can still demonstrate appropriate manners by following the examples of others around the table.

Good manners go a long way in most societies. Mannerly people are more likely to get ahead in the world of business, and they also find themselves more commonly invited as guests and welcomed in society. In tense social situations, an awareness of good manners and social rules of behavior can help to diffuse tension, or at least to avoid a serious incident, and someone's attention to proper codes of conduct will be remembered. Travelers who take the time to learn about the codes of conduct in regions they are visiting will often find their way smoothed, and they will be welcomed back in the future.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By anon114483 — On Sep 28, 2010

That book is needed for many adults in the business world handling clients and tourists in the country.

By anon114481 — On Sep 28, 2010

Good manners are extremely important in life, in school and the workplace. Without manners people in this world would be unable to communicate between anyone. Manners should be instilled in a child at an early age so that when they grow it will be natural, and not a problem.

By latte31 — On Jul 29, 2010

Cupcake15- I will have to get that book. I just want to add that good manners and right conduct are so important in children because it makes things easier for them when they grow up.

People are more prone to listen to a polite person than a rude person. People with no manners offend most by their behavior. The offensive behavior can be corrected by modeling and teaching as a child, but once someone becomes an adult good manners are expected.

So the adult lacking manners is at a severe disadvantage in society. Good manners for adults also include proper table manners of not talking with your mouth full, and not eating with your mouth open. It also involves saying please and thank you and not speaking ill of someone or participate in gossip. These were a small list of good manners.

By cupcake15 — On Jul 29, 2010

I just wanted to add that teaching good manners to children is essential. Children need to learn good manners etiquette because when children become adults, good manners will become second nature.

For example, children need to be taught good table manners, by not talking with their mouth full and closing their mouth when they eat.

In addition, they should not reach over someone’s plate in order to get something they should simply ask if the person closest to the food or condiment that the child wants could simply pass it down.

The best thing to do when teaching good manners to kids is model proper manners yourself. The other thing you can do is get the book, “Emily Post the Guide to Good Manners for Kids.” This book is recommended for children from age’s nine to twelve.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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