Friday, January 22, 2016

On Expressing Compliments

A lady considers that it is possible to be thoughtless
when expressing a compliment.

Because a lady strives to be considerate of everyone around her, she does not compliment an individual on matters of dress or appearance in the presence of others, but waits for an opportunity to express her admiration privately.  She is aware that by complimenting one in a group setting, she may leave the others with the subtle (but distinct) impression that her compliment does not apply to them.

For example, if in front of Ann, Mary admires Grace's dress, then Ann may be left to conclude that hers did not merit a compliment.  For this reason, Mary, if she is a lady of courtesy, will wait to compliment Grace privately.

Principle:  On matters of dress or appearance, a lady does not compliment one individual in a group.

Art: Painting by Edmund Tarbell, 1880

Sunday, January 17, 2016

To Put Others at Ease


Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse.
Whoever makes the fewest people uneasy is the best bred in the room.
Jonathan Swift

Although a lady is skilled in the rules of propriety, she never forgets that without kindness, good manners are utter vanity.  Keenly sensitive to others' feelings, a lady seeks to put people at ease with her warmth and genuine interest in them.  To act in any way that would upset or embarrass another human being would be a violation of her code.  Should a person unwittingly blunder, she exercises quick presence of mind and uncommon courtesy to effectively put him or her at ease.

Queen Victoria masterfully illustrated this noble quality at a British diplomatic reception given in honor of a certain African chieftain.  As the dinner came to a close, the visiting chief who had never seen a finger bowl, picked up his bowl and drank the contents. Stunned guests stared in silence at the foreign dignitary's faux pas; but the Queen, in order to protect her guest from certain humiliation, proceeded to raise her own finger bowl to her lips and drink, whereupon every other guest dutifully followed suit.

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.
If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” 

Principle:  A lady seeks to put others at ease with her sensitive kindness.

Art: The Cup of Tea by Mary Cassatt