With these qualities, traits of character, refinement becomes automatic. They are the basis of good manners, courtesy and gentility. This page is adapted from Chapter 11 from Helen Andelin’s book All about Raising Children.
Traits of a Refined Character
Sensitivity – acutely aware of the feelings and needs of others.
Consideration – to be considerate of feelings needs and others and adapting our behavior accordingly. This is a fundamental quality necessary for tact and courtesy.
Practice Restraint – this means to control our thoughts, feelings and expressions. To curb what may be offensive.
Mrs Andelin writes in her book All About Raising Children on the quality of restraint,
This is a necessary quality in all elements of refinement. Not only is it vital to manners and courtesy, but to good taste, music and all forms of art. The truly beautiful is restrained. It is never overdone.
Tact and Diplomacy
To be careful in discerning the right thing to say to another person so as not to offend him. Tact is the opposite of bluntness. There is a lack of regard
for the feelings of others in a blunt person.
A refined person understands the difference between bluntness and frankness. She will only speak frankly if she is convinced that it is necessary and appropriate.
The first steps to a refined speech is to speak correctly.
What is speaking correctly?
- Correct pronunciation of words – distinctly and correctly.
- Avoid the tendency to slur words together.
- You are encouraged to move your lips while speaking and to use your facial muscles – this is part of correct speech.
- The proper use of words – and the avoidance of slang (unless in extremely familiar and casual circumstances, and usually only if you lack a better expression).
- Refrain from vulgar language, profanity, swearing and telling vulgar stories
- Expansion of vocabulary – perfect for when writing and used at discretion in speech
- A refined accent
Using big words on purpose to a person who may not have your language skills is pretentious and rude.
From the general characteristics of a person’s accent, we can usually tell where that person is from and very often what social class he or she belongs to.
– Robert Blumenfeld
Establishing good habits of standing, sitting and walking posture.
To love to read and learn.
To not interrupt when someone is speaking.
To not fidget, look at their cell phones constantly, scratch, burp etc
To not open their mouths too wide when they are surprised or laughing.
Any unusual contortion of the body is considered unrefined. – Helen Andelin
Awareness of Etiquette
A refined person is aware of social etiquette, be it being prompt to rsvp all social invitations or being a gracious conversationalist.
She respects the privacy of others, will not intrude into someone’s home, have a proper conduct at all times and will not ask for cheeky favors such borrowing freely or as getting a free service from a lawyer, accountant, doctor friend etc.
A mark of a refined person is good taste, a term which refers to one’s ability to appreciate or judge what is beautiful, appropriate or excellent in art, dress etc.
A person with good taste employs a lot of thought and discretion in selecting her clothes, hairstyle, jewelry, hairstyle, home furnishings and art. She is also prudent in spending, her manners, and her speech.
How does one develop good taste?
I believe it develops from a good heart and mind, exposure to the finer things in life and creativity such as art and music.
Two principles of design which contribute to good taste are simplicity and restraint. Good taste is never loud, gaudy or overbearing. Good design is often limited to simple lines, color and texture.
Mrs Andelin writes that music and art help refine us, subduing our rough nature and awakening finer characteristics. She also says that refinement can be cultivated by a frequent exposure to excellent music and great art.
She continues to say, “Children who have little or no exposure to the fine arts are found to be lacking in refinement and those who are limited to only crude music or cheap, gaudy art tend to develop coarse and vulgar tendencies.
How you dress and dine at the table is a way to establish refinement
The table is always set beautifully, with proper placement of cutlery and preferably with a ironed linen, china and silver.
When it is dinner time, everyone comes down appropriately dressed and certainly not in pajamas.
Your family dines without spilling food on the tablecloth or floor. No one makes noises during the meal such as chewing noisily, slurping or clanking of silverware.
It is visually pleasant. Everyone sits up straight and brings food to their mouths. No one is fidgeting, opening their mouth to chew, sticking their fingers into the food or mouth, licking knives, playing with their food.
There is good dinner conversation which is polite and relaxed. ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ is often used. There is no cutting in and interrupted. There are not name-calling or slamming down of opinions. No one leaves the table unless he/she asks to be excused or until everyone is finished.
No one reaches across the table to grab the some pepper. They’ll politely ask for the pepper to be passed.
When your family is done, they wipe their hands and mouths on the napkin provided, not on the table cloth or their clothes.
Refinement has nothing to do with money or status.
Good manners and courtesy are based on a sensitive consideration for others and good taste, music and art are dependent upon qualities of restraint.