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Editor Picks Elegant Character Elegant Concepts

Having One Manner For All

As I was thinking about how to write this article, I recall an event that I attended once in San Francisco Bay. It was a networking event among entrepreneurs, start-up executives, angel investors and venture capitalists. I didn’t exactly fall into any of those categories. I was just there, waiting for a friend who was a Venture Capitalist i.e. VC, who sat on the panel of judges. (We met in university). We were going out to dinner later. His job was to listen to interesting pitches, which happened at the end of a microphone, and comment on whether it is viable, thus opening the conversations that would happen at the informal networking sessions after.

As I had never been to these events before, I was quite intrigued by the people there. They were all so motivated and fired up. The innovation bug was in the air, it was all so inspiring.

After the pitches ended, everyone got started immediately. They started to ‘network’. This means, they would go around introducing themselves, finding out what you do, and of course, figuring out if there was an opportunity to work together. To put it plainly, you were quickly sized up if you were useful or not (and worthy to be befriended).

I looked over at my friend J, and a large number of people swarmed to him. Everyone wanted to talk to him, to introduce/pitch their business, hoping for investment or other useful opportunities. He was a tall guy, but I could barely see him. As I got up from my seat, thinking I could just go to the corner to wait for him, three people stood right in front of my face.

“Hi, I’m A, my business is in Screen technology. What do you do?”

“I’m B, my start up is a VR publishing platform, about to launch next month. How about you?”

“My business in optical AI is already successful, I just need more funding for my next stage worldwide expansion. And you are? ”

I was stunned. Honestly, I didn’t prepare an answer. Here I was, standing in front of these entrepreneurs and felt very small.

I stumbled out, “Oh Hi I’m E, I’m not in any high tech start-ups, I’m just waiting for my friend….”

Before I could finish my sentence, I saw all three of them had their eyes elsewhere and drifting their body positions away from me. One said, “Oh…” and left me standing. The rest just didn’t bother to continue to speak to me, and turned to the guy on my right and introduced themselves the same way they had to me.

Wow, I guess I wasn’t even worth to be continued speaking to. I wasn’t affected, thankfully my ego is not that big. I was just amazed at how go-getter they are and a little shocked at the aggression (haha I guess that’s the Silicon Valley for you). Of course, there was no time to be wasted, this networking event could only last for probably the next 30-40 minutes as people started to leave. These entrepreneurs needed to meet as many people as they had to, to advance their business.

I hurriedly went to the corner so that I won’t “waste anyone’s time”. I’m not exactly a candidate that could contribute meaningfully. Although this wasn’t an exclusive event, people went there for such a single minded purpose.

As I got out of the way, I continued observing the way people talked about themselves and dismissed others quickly. As I looked over the crowd, I could still see J still being swarmed by people. Everyone was getting in his face because he was from Benchmark Capital. I could see his body language, he was trying to get away as politely as possible. Everyone wanted to talk to him, and everyone wanted his business card.

He looked searchingly at the crowd and once he spotted me, he smiled, politely tried to cut the conversation with the swarm and slowly made his way over. When within earshot, he hissed, “Hurry up, let’s go before more people try to talk to me. I’m hungry. ” As we walked off, I saw the 3 guys whom I “met” earlier looking at me in surprise.

Upon reflection, there were a few things I realized from that little observation.

People tend to alter their behavior according to their perceived (sometimes superficial) value of someone. The more important or useful to them someone is, they smile more, flatter, try to impress, act very nice to. The less or unimportant person is mostly ignored, and sometimes receive curt or even rude behavior.

Now, I’m not offended at all about what those guys did. I get it, being an entrepreneur is a hard life. I know the importance of networking. And yes, maybe they could at least say, it was very nice to meet you. But even if they did, it is not like I could help with anything either. My point of this whole story is to show that we naturally reserve our efforts on what is productive or fruitful, to conserve energy/resources and so our behavior sometimes reflect this. However, in general, treating anyone well or badly based on perceived value is not the most elegant way.

Have the same manner for everyone

It is not elegant to reserve your best behaviour and manners for someone important.

At least those guys were just looking out for the interests of their company, which may represent jobs for many families. There are some people who just reserve their manners for anyone who is judged to be beautiful, prestigious or rich. That doesn’t even make sense because how is that productive? Maybe they think that impressing them could mean future opportunities, or they think it is great for their image.

I feel that one of the core concepts of elegance is treating everyone with respect and in the same manner.

That means you shouldn’t just be rude to someone because she’s “just the waitress”. And also your colleagues shouldn’t see you sucking up to your boss. Your manner of speaking to colleagues, boss and even people whom you don’t work with but share the same office… should be the same.

The way you treat someone should be the same for the people you think are important, and not-so-important.

You shouldn’t save your best manners for the queen.

If so, how  exactly do you treat everyone the same way? How can you be elegant about this?

How to have the same manner for everyone

Here are a few guidelines

  1. Treat everyone the same
  2. Do not try to impress
  3. Don’t be rude to someone just because you think they are not worth your attention

Treat everyone the same

No matter who, be polite and respectful. Offer your greetings, say please and thank you, and look at them when speaking.

This should be your manner to everyone. When you are not in the habit of discriminating or judging or sizing people up and assigning a value to them in relation to your needs, you are actually a better person. You are more elegant and you are genuinely a person of character.

Do not try to impress

There is no need to. And trying to impress almost never works. You may not know who the person really is and may look like a fool if they can already tell that you’re exaggerating. You may steer the conversation towards what you’re interested in by dropping in a few statements to see if they are interested, then perhaps it may be okay to talk about yourself. Ideally, it is better to talk about something else than to use the word “I” and constantly refer to yourself.

Do not be rude

Most people are not rude. But some people are rude only to those calculated as “not important” or “will not affect my career” or “someone I will not socialize with”. I remember seeing two friends dismissing my awkward friend at my birthday party and I was not happy about that.

I’ve also travelled with some friends am genuinely not happy about the way they have treated some taxi drivers.

“Judge a person not by how he treats you, but how he treats others. The former reflects what he wants you to think of him, the latter truly reflects who he is.”
― Betty Jamie Chung

So why do people do this? Why do people treat others differently based on their perceived usefulness?

I believe it is due to their fundamental values and way of thinking. They don’t believe in the abundance of love and goodness in the world. They believe in scarcity in time and resources, they have to fight and take from others. It is as though being nice is a waste of time, because being nice is an effort (probably because they are not genuinely caring or nice).

If deep down you believe in the abundance of love and have fundamental respect for others as equals, I believe the right behavior will come from the heart. You will feel and know what is the right thing to do.

How will having the abundance of love and have fundamental respect for others be like?

This is what I believe. If you believe in the abundance of love and have fundamental respect for others, you will be respectful towards ALL people, not just people from your country, or race or religion.

No matter what their beliefs are, or how different they are from yourself, there will be a fundamental respect for their differences and their choices. Even when it makes you uncomfortable.  One shouldn’t compare or try to convince anyone to change.

It is our job to for us to acquaint ourselves with some of these differences, so as to better understand and see things from another perspective.

And when you do, I believe it is only natural you become a more considerate person. Somehow, it will be easier to think about others before yourself.

In doing so, I also remind myself of these points…

There is a difference being-firm-but-not-rude, and being rude.

There is no need to be rude, but that doesn’t mean you are a push-over. There is a difference between being firm and respectful in a disagreeable situation, and being rude.

Do not be overly nice

While you are being elegant and treating everyone in the same manner, this also doesn’t mean you are overly nice, in a way that makes others feel uncomfortable, or that you’re sucking up. You don’t have to go out of your way for everyone, you don’t have to please everyone. You can say no. Just be as polite and straight forward as possible, and don’t need to sugarcoat something or exaggerate to be nice. People can smell pretentiousness .

Don’t need to cultivate friendship with everyone

Sometimes we try too hard, and we try to cultivate a relationship with everyone. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, certainly not your boss, your colleagues or your assistant, not even the part-time housekeeper. Keep the personal questions to yourself. Sometimes, it is kind to maintain a respectful distance and to give people space or privacy. Be cheerful when you see them but go about your own business and be on your merry way.

“The most attractive thing about you should have less to do with your face or body and more to do with your attitude and how you treat people.”
― Germany Kent

Being Elegant in your Manner

Having the same manner for everyone is not only kindness and consideration, but it is also about having character. There is a sense of honesty, because you don’t have to be on your guard, you don’t have to wonder if you were rude or curt prior to realizing who you were speaking to. You’re not pretending to be someone else. You are polite, you are considerate, you are elegant. You’re being yourself.

It is also faith and sense of belief that you don’t have to flatter your way to get any where. Flattery might work against you. And if you need to flatter any one in order to get something, or get ahead, then maybe it is not worth pursuing that, if it is elegance that you’re after.

Women who have inspired me seem have one elegant manner. They live their lives with dignity by not altering their behaviour according to perceived value. They don’t even appear to be sizing any one up. Doing so is regarded as crass and pretentious.

As I write this, I recall a little bitterly at my current workplace where two of my colleagues use this method to get ahead. Sure, it may work (probably temporarily) but everyone else in that department is disgusted and those two are not well-liked. I sometimes get mad because it is quite unfair and feel like there is no justice but I remind myself that that’s not the life I want, and those are the people I do not want to be.

I believe in doing the right thing and living as best as I can, even though I am not perfect. I want to be the elegant person that treats everyone in the same respectful, courteous way. I want to be kind and warm and compassionate. I want to live with the right values and principles and make the world a better place, in my own way.

Before I end off, I would like to share with you some quotes that have inspired me greatly from “My Fair Lady“.

Mrs. Higgins: How ever did you learn good manners with my son around?
Eliza Doolittle: It was very difficult. I should never have known how ladies and gentlemen really behaved, if it hadn’t been for Colonel Pickering. He always showed what he thought and felt about me as if I were something better than a common flower girl. You see, Mrs. Higgins, apart from the things one can pick up, the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated. I shall always be a common flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me like a common flower girl, and always will. But I know that I shall always be a lady to Colonel Pickering, because he always treats me like a lady, and always will.

People may not have remembered what you said, but they will always remember how you have made them felt.

Have a great month ahead,

E

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    Kimberly Waite
    June 19, 2018 at 7:01 am

    Hello Eunice,

    I have been struggling with this for a few weeks! So spot on! I do have a question: I was always taught that it is polite and more personal to refer to people by their name or given family name. I was at a dinner party and had a faux pas when I referred to the hosts by their first names, not their preferred honorific of Drs. (which was explained to me after the fact). I was invited to the dinner by their grown daughter, and called them what everyone else present had called them by. The hosts never corrected me, but the daughter said in a later conversation that because I was her invited guest they felt they deserved reverence. I expressed my apology at hurting their pride, and never meant any disrespect.
    I did not understand the miscue; I am about 15 years younger than the parents, and I too am also a grandmother. If anything I have more in common with the parents than the daughter.
    Am I wrong for calling them by their first name at an intimate dinner party, or are they a little full of themselves? Much like the entrepreneurs in your article, the hosts displayed indifference towards my level of assumed importance— which I felt after the conversation with the daughter was rude. At what age are we allowed to join the “adult table” and see one as equals?
    I greatly appreciate any feedback you may have from your perspective.

    Sincerely,
    Kimberly Waite

    • Reply
      elegantwoman.org
      June 20, 2018 at 9:40 am

      You know, everyone’s different, it is hard to say what is acceptable for every specific situation not knowing the full details of background, culture, context etc. But don’t beat up yourself for this – I don’t even think it’s a mistake, rather, it seems to me that it is a preference. I felt the hosts should have said, “Please call me XXX” or whispered to their daughter to let you know discreetly.

      No matter, let it go and if a similar situation comes up again, ask “How may I address you?” or the person who have invited you. Don’t worry about this. 🙂

    • Reply
      Chastain Sarah
      August 5, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Helen Tomlin
    June 19, 2018 at 7:46 am

    These are very good thoughts. I always read your articles. It seems that this one could have been proofread a little better, however.

    • Reply
      K
      June 21, 2018 at 6:15 pm

      Elegance is overlooking minor things like that. This newsletter is sent to an online community of women who should be more gracious and KIND to another. Sometime “correcting” someone is a mask to say “See? I’m better than you.”……..”juz sayin'”

      • Reply
        Veronica
        September 9, 2018 at 4:37 pm

        Exactly. There’s no reason why the person could not have contacted the site privately via e-mail. It’s listed under contact.

  • Reply
    Simone Campbell
    June 19, 2018 at 9:41 am

    Excellent article, a masterpiece. A timepiece and teaching moment to all. I wish this could be a mission statement or a curriculum in schools to educate the young minds.

    Sadly I think this is superficial lifestyle appears to be a learned behavior deeply entrenched in young children. “People tend to alter their behavior according to their perceived (sometimes superficial) value of someone” has become the norm albeit not appropriate.

    I greatly appreciate your story shared and coaching tips to all.

    • Reply
      elegantwoman.org
      June 20, 2018 at 9:35 am

      Let’s hope and continue to make a difference. xoxo

  • Reply
    Cheryl
    June 19, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Wonderful & thoughtful article!

  • Reply
    Heather
    June 19, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Love this article, you did an awesome job!
    This principle is rooted in the Bible.
    Treating others equally with love is taught over and over.
    Luke 6:31
    “Do to others as you would have them to do to you”
    And
    James 2:2-13
    For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? …

    Yes, treat everyone kindly! 🙂

    • Reply
      elegantwoman.org
      June 20, 2018 at 9:34 am

      Thanks for the wonderful verse and reminder! 🙂

  • Reply
    Christine
    June 19, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    I love this!!! You are truly a woman of insight and integrity.

  • Reply
    Tessa Hall
    June 19, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Excellent article! I learned a long time ago to treat everyone with equal respect because I would never know WHO would be an open door of access of favor for me. I found these attitudes to be true when I was living in Hong Kong and among the art scene of curators, art investors and enthusiasts, and artists. I was a member of an art enthusiast group (will leave nameless). I was looked upon by of the persons that worked for the group as no one of importance(not that I cared), but when I purposely approached her at during a well known ‘private invite only’ art show for major artists in Hong Kong, she was shocked! I said “Hello So-and So’ she was like ‘TESSA, HOW DID YOU GET IN?” then proceeds giving me fake cheek kisses as though she knew me really well. I told her that I KNEW THE CURATOR OF THE SHOW. After that, she was trying to be all on my good side. So yeah, people need to treat people with respect regardless of status, position, etc of the person at the time.

    • Reply
      elegantwoman.org
      June 20, 2018 at 9:33 am

      Hahaha this behaviour and situation is so familiar to me. Good on you, elegant woman! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sabina
    June 19, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    E,
    Had those 3 seen you with the VC at any point they would have been all over you! Sad but true.
    People remember how they are made to feel, always.
    Well said 🙂

  • Reply
    Ana
    June 19, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    Amazing! Thank you for your posts. They are relevant in every way and are truly needed.

    • Reply
      Eeeemi
      June 19, 2018 at 9:37 pm

      Thank you dearie. It’s wonderful to hear from you again

  • Reply
    b
    June 19, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to compose and write this. Your wisdom and compassion are much appreciated. The idea of how to converse elegantly – by sensing the interest of the other – comes at a good time, for me. My social awkwardness has been a hindrance in my current situation. Something so simple as not saying “I” as much in a first or even second time situation is just what was needed for me to gain confidence when initially meeting someone.
    Thank you for all your many years of giving good advice.

    • Reply
      elegantwoman.org
      June 20, 2018 at 9:36 am

      Keep going and don’t be afraid of making mistakes – the important thing is that you are getting better! That is something to be proud of. 🙂

  • Reply
    Merry
    June 19, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Wonderful post! I really enjoyed reading it and it made me think.

    -Merry

  • Reply
    Lesa
    June 20, 2018 at 3:00 am

    What you have said is so true! and it is important to be true to yourself and treat everyone in a polite and kind manner, not judging. We are not rewarded necessarily on this earth, but doing what you know is right and the correct thing to do will be for your good in the long run. When you are elderly, and this is how you have lived your life, your reputation and character goes before you and speaks for itself, and you are rewarded. thanks for your lovely posts–always great reminders!

    • Reply
      elegantwoman.org
      June 20, 2018 at 9:35 am

      Your comment is so inspiring! I will take it to heart, thank you

  • Reply
    stella
    June 20, 2018 at 6:00 am

    Thanks , i tried this at my next church meeting and felt more than saw the difference , but most of all i felt good

  • Reply
    Jennie Gorman
    June 20, 2018 at 7:47 am

    Thank you. I loved your article. I have been educating people about ‘networking/relationship building’ now for nearly 30 years!
    Yes, that is a long time and most people do not get it. I would love to have met you in that room as I would have seen you as just as worthy as anyone else there. Networking is all about giving and not taking! It is about trust and integrity. There is no room for bad manners in networking. We are all meant to be building relationships firstly. Continue writing, I look forward to more.

  • Reply
    Praiseyahweh
    June 20, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    I used to have respect for you. However this post mostly just tells us to be dishonest with people about our true intentions. I understand giving people Grace and being kind however I would much rather an entrepreneur turned away soon as they realize they had no value rather than kissing my butt for the sake of ensuring an opportunity or future friendship if they should want to use me then. Your post feels more like a rant for becoming more politically correct rather than exposing the truth about our intentions as people. I’m going to be leaving your website and not returning at this point. shalom

  • Reply
    Zerobear
    June 22, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Hello – I do not normally leave comments but this time I just had to! My husband and I run a small flight school and an airplane repair shop. And believe me – we get a wide overview of egos! But I SO totally agree with you – everyone has the right to be seen as a person, not the rung of a latter that someone is hoping to climb! Because I work in the office at OUR flight school/ shop facility, many of the people who come through believe that I am ” just the receptionist”. They very often get a shocking attitude adjustment when they discover that “the girl up front’ is who decides when and what they can fly and if they are qualified to rent an airplane. I’ve been a pilot for many years and as you said – a lot of the image that they are trying to project just makes them look unprofessional. Do I get “miffed” at them – NO – I simply check their credentials very, very throughly!!! Because I have already seen and heard that they have a “gift for exaggeration”. I throughly agree that one must always make an effort to honestly be themselves and treat everyone one meets with equal coustesy and respect. Every individual deserves that, wheather they can “help” you or not.

    • Reply
      elegantwoman.org
      June 26, 2018 at 4:50 am

      Oh wow, thank you for sharing your story! Good on you 🙂

  • Reply
    Marlene Miller
    June 24, 2018 at 5:53 am

    Well said. How you treat others who can do nothing for you is important. I learned long ago to treat the janitor the same way I treat the CEO.

  • Reply
    Liag
    August 30, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    Another perfect post from you! I recently experienced something that opened my eyes about why others may treat you differently based on money, position, etc. Unfortunately it was someone I respected. During the time I spent with them, I reminded myself that there is a lesson in the blessing. The blessing was everything I was learning despite how I was personally being treated. Even when criticized (publicly) and being compared to others, I never said a negative word. I discovered that this person suffered horrible abuse within their family. This made them bitter and always striving to “be better”. This person does everything they can to make themselves fit in with people whom they think are “better.” In my quietness and stillness, I saw the true person. Like you, I too knew some of the people they were trying to impress, personally. In fact, I attended social events with them during that time. Although I would never gossip with people we both know about my experience with them, someone who knew of them, observed that they lacked the very thing I was criticized for. Sadly, their criticism of me was a result of perceived vision. I never bothered to disprove or correct because they would/may-have discover on their own. They will never know because I shall never publicly reveal or display but, even despite knowing the origins of what could be their reasons for treating me differently, I have lost respect for them. I hold a high disregard for the ill treatment and lack of respect for others no matter their station in life. On another note: I have a world renowned, famous friend whom, I’ve observed, treats everyone like they are extremely special. True class!

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