“The power of manners is incessant—an element as unconcealable as fire. The nobility cannot in any country be disguised, and no more in a republic or a democracy than in a kingdom. There are certain manners which are learned in good society, of that force that, if a person have them, he or she must be considered, and is everywhere welcome, though without beauty, or wealth, or genius.”
—From Emerson’s Essays.
What does it mean then to be a Gentleman, or a Lady in this day and age? To be a Master or Mistress and to receive service in all its varied forms for our personal pleasure and also to increase the amount of beauty in the world. How is this done exactly? It isnt found in ancestry, money or in dress – we are all well aware of those that ‘look the part’ so to speak but come across as fake as the proverbial 2 dollar bill. No, it is in something deeper – in the seeking and uncovering of rare and invaluable traits and the flexibility of mind and spirit to not only receive Truths when one comes across them, but to also incorporate these Truths into one’s mind and heart and to make them your own. Those that would be RM will pay attention to these things. “You must study this” – Musashi would say.
It is in how we carry ourselves. I believe that one of the strongest motivating forces in the world is the desire to be thought well of by one’s peers. Some books call it social happiness – the desire so to impress by one’s manner that one will be welcome and respected wherever one chances to be.I wrote in an earlier piece about how “The Man that would Master another must first Master himself.” Nowhere is this more evident than in the demonstrating of the social graces – what we call etiquette.
What is etiquette? Society has its own code of manners that must be observed by the RM. There are certain rules that must be followed, conventions that must be observed in something as simple as standing in line, asking someone to pass the salt or pepper at the dinner table, or joining a conversation already in progress. The intent of good etiquette is not to be showy or flashy or flamboyant, or fake – but the gentle exercise of the art of doing and saying the correct thing at the correct time, regardless of the circumstance or situation. And like any other discipline – the more you study it and apply yourself to it the better you become at it. Everyday we have an opportunity to tell the story of who we are inside primarily by two things; How we carry ourselves and how we treat other people. Etiquette is the vehicle by which that story is told during our public interaction with the society around us.
The RM is never angry or impatient in a social setting. His actions and speech are tempered with a dispassionate calm and traquility – he is the embodiment of the french word; sang froid; the literal translation of this is sang, blood (from Old French, from Latin sanguis) + froid, cold (from the Latin frigidus) n. This is an attitude of coolness and composure, especially in trying circumstances. We all have encountered potentially embarrassing or socially difficult moments. It has been said that we dont have a choice in what happens to us, our choice lies in how we respond to it. The RM knows that it is poor form to show by our gestures and frowns and speech that we are annoyed by some circumstance that is entirely beyond our control.
How many times have you heard that in your lifetime? William De Witt Hyde, in his book, “Practical Ethics,” says, “Politeness is proper respect for human personality. Rudeness results from thinking exclusively about ourselves and caring nothing for the feelings of anybody else. The sincere desire to bring the greatest pleasure and least pain to everyone we meet will go a long way towards making our manners more polite and courteous.” The RM is polite to everyone, regardless of their station. Some feel that being polite makes one ‘less Dominant’ and I emphatically disagree. I’ve always been taught that you can learn a lot about a person by observing how they treat people who are in service. Making eye contact with the person that is serving you if possible to say ‘please’ when ordering and ‘thank you’ when receiving, e.g. when they refill your water glass or coffee cup can often make the difference in their day and insure you receive exemplary service in a restaurant. Servers appreciate politeness and will want to make you happy in return for that simple kindness. Additionally, dont raise your glass, tap on it to draw attention or waive at your server from the other side of the restaurant. Establishing eye contact and being polite early on in the encounter will ‘raise’ your visibility during your meal to the server in such a way that many times a look and a nod is all that is necessary to bring them over if you need something.
“This is the final test of a gentleman: his respect for those who can be of no possible value to him.” – William Lyon Phelps
It Pays to Be Agreeable
We are all like huge magnets when you really think about it. We tend to attract those things that are in line with what we send out into the world with our attitudes and actions. If we are ill mannered, irritable, abrasive and intentionally ignore both the boundaries and the rights of others, then we will find that other people will also ignore our boundaries, rights and be rude and irritated with us in turn. The RM recognizes that one of the biggest reasons to know proper etiquette (and also more specifically how to properly receive service) is to make one’s own life more enjoyable and happier overall. If we are kind and agreeable we are more likely to encounter and attract people of the same mindset. I dont know why this is true. It just is. Being an RM is not about being manipulative or trying to convince everyone around you that you are something that you are not. It is actually tapping into a cycle of reciprocity that many of us have forgotten because we learned it when we were kids. Im sure we’ve all seen the bumper sticker “Mean People SUCK!” – its true. They do – the flipside of that truism is that the cultured person, the RM that studies the rules of etiquette and that is polite and agreeable finds that a new dimension of being and a different, better understanding of human relationships begins to unfold before him. He finds that if he is amenable to helping others, then help is also readily available to him in his time of need. By applying a little extra effort to improving the life of someone else, he finds that not only is his life improved in that moment, but he notices that sentiment expressed in his or her direction often from unexpected directions.
Secrets of Success
Everyone that desires to can become a gentleman in every sense of that word – and that is at the heart of being a true RM. Good manners and etiquette must be cultivated – you have to work at it. Exuding grace, poise and self confidence isnt artifice or an acting job. We all must study and learn and get better than we were. We have the sum total of most of recorded human knowledge at our disposal – the wise RM makes the best of it by intentional study of the things in his life that dont come easy. One of my coaches when I was a very young man at basketball practice noticed that all of us consistently came to practice and did the things we were ‘good’ at..we shot from our favorite spots on the floor, we bounced the ball with our ‘good’ hand, always. Im right handed so he began making me dribble with my left all the time at practice. Because that’s what practice is really for. You get the example so I wont belabor the point further.
Cultivating good manners is relevant and important because every day you come into contact with people who will judge you by what you do and say. They go away carrying an impression of you and it depends upon our manners whether it is a good impression or a bad one. It is a mistake to assume that these skill sets are just for the formal dinner or special occaision. Studies have shown that you have approximately four seconds to make a good impression on someone you are meeting for the first time. In this world of power exchange dynamics you will find that many times that initial four seconds is not under your control – people tend to observe you from a distance before getting closer to you.
Cultivating good manners and etiquette, being agreeable and pleasant to be around insures a favorable impression even if you arent aware that you’re being observed. But most importantly, paying attention to and having respect for how you engage others makes you respect yourself. When you respect others and respect yourself it naturally follows that those that would serve you will respect you as well. Ultimately, I truly believe that self respect is really the only thing that brings true happiness to all men and women.