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Episode 16: Modern Day Etiquette “Dos” and “Don’ts” with Thomas P. Farley, "Mister Manners"

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Brief summary of show:

In this week’s episode, I sat down with my go-to on all things etiquette, Thomas P. Farley, Mister Manners, who is America’s trusted etiquette expert.

A keynote speaker, workshop leader, syndicated columnist and TV commentator, he inspires audiences of all types to master essential communication strategies for success in the workplace—and in life.

We talk about how etiquette has evolved over the years, and if it’s still important to write hand-written thank you notes.

Hear more of this, and:

  • What modern etiquette is

  • Examples of types of etiquette that have changed and are acceptable

  • Online etiquette and manners

  • Etiquette changes due to the pandemic

Connect with Thomas

  • On Instagram

  • On Facebook

  • On Twitter

  • On LinkedIn

  • Website

  • Listen to the What Manners Most Podcast

Connect with Me

Podcast Highlights:

Episode 16 - Thomas Farley and Natalie Tysdal

Do you write thank you cards? Do you write, thank you emails? Do your kids write thank yous when they get birthday presents? Well, that's just one of the many forms of etiquette or manners that I grew up learning was important to do. It seems like today, modern etiquette and manner, well, It's just different.

[00:00:18] So here's my question. Think about this. Does it really mean. Do we need to have old fashioned manners. And what is etiquette? What does it mean? And I'm not just talking about thank yous, but lots of stuff in life, holding doors, shaking, hands, looking people in the eyes. So I went to someone who I've talked to over the years.

[00:00:36] I think he has the perfect take on this. And I think you're going to really like this conversation on etiquette and manners for you, for your family, even in the work environment. This is Mr. Manners, Thomas Farley.

[00:00:48] Natalie: [00:00:48] Thomas Farley, Mr. Manners, joining me now all about etiquette today, Thomas. Thanks so much for coming on.

[00:00:55] Thomas: [00:00:55] Thank you for having me, Natalie. It's my pleasure.

[00:00:58] Natalie: [00:00:58] So I'm super interested in hearing how you got into this very specific, very niche area of etiquette.

[00:01:08] Thomas: [00:01:08] Yes. Well, I will tell you, I was not a four year old who was wearing bow ties, dreaming about one day becoming known as Mr.

[00:01:16] Manners. Uh, it was a somewhat later development, although manners and etiquette were always very important to me as a young child. They were instilled in me by both my parents. I was surrounded by aunts and uncles who were school teachers. So things like writing, thank you. Notes, things like the pleases and thank yous, uh, were very much a part of my upbringing.

[00:01:37] I am also a Catholic school kid, from K through 12. So I wore a neck tie for most of my formative years. So I think all of those things combined. Uh, but it wasn't really, until I became an editor at 10, a country magazine where I'm the header inherited a column called social graces. And that column took a very fresh look at issues of contemporary etiquette and editing the column, which ultimately became a book was really the on-ramp for me becoming a little bit more of a public persona in this realm of modern manners and etiquette, which I truly relish.

[00:02:13] Natalie: [00:02:13] Today, there is a form of modern contemporary etiquette versus the old fashion. I mean, a lot of us think of having good manners and setting up straight and dressing appropriate.

[00:02:23] We think of that as a little bit old. I don't, but my kids think it's very, yeah. Old fashion. Is there a new form of manners and etiquette that we need to.

[00:02:34] Thomas: [00:02:34] It's such a great question. So I think without a doubt, some of the formality that we often associated with etiquette in years, past or decades, past, or even centuries past that has largely dissipated.

[00:02:47] If you look at a young couples getting married today, picking out what they want to get this gifts for their wedding. Well, it's likely they want some kind of a contribution toward their honeymoon fund or their house. They're not picking out China. They're not picking out crystal. Yes. There are some, couples that still appreciate that.

[00:03:04] But by and large, we've moved away from a lot of the formality that's associated with the word etiquette. And I want to just clarify if your listeners that we think of etiquette as being something that's just super stuffy and old fashioned and boring. So etiquette. Comes from the French word for tickets.

[00:03:23] And if you think of etiquette as being your tickets to getting what it is you want out of any interaction that I think is a very modern way of looking at what this is all about. So yes, I think, you know, although we see thank you notes, being written with less frequency, we see people dressing for dinner with less frequency.

[00:03:43] And a lot of these things I think are unfortunate because I think we're losing time. Some of the things that really make these interactions and these, the caching occasions be special, but ultimately etiquette and good manners should always be about making the people around you feel more comfortable, feel more welcome, and feel happier to be around you.

[00:04:04] And for anyone who thinks that they can use etiquette as a tool. To push someone down or make them feel unwelcome, or like they simply didn't read the right book and they don't know the right rules. That for me is the worst type of etiquette. And frankly, I don't find it to be etiquette at all. So the space I occupy here is looking at the regular interactions.

[00:04:25]whether you're in an elevator, whether you are opening a door for someone, those kinds of everyday common courtesies that sometimes are lost in the shuffle of modern society and how we can recap.

[00:04:36] Natalie: [00:04:36] Oh, boy. That's interesting. And as you were saying that I was thinking what's acceptable today?

[00:04:41] Like, what is this, the modern, the modern etiquette and how has it changed? What are some examples of, of those things that, you know, it's really okay. Today for example, is it okay to send the email? Thank you. Versus the handwritten. Thank you. Like what are some examples of things that have changed and it's perfectly acceptable coming from Mr.

[00:05:01] Manners. It's perfectly acceptable that you handle it this way.

[00:05:05] Thomas: [00:05:05] Yes. Uh, well, I'll talk about the thank you notes in just a moment. Something that I think is probably a more, very vivid example of something that has changed as you think about the way men and women interact, whether in a social setting, whether in a dating type of situation or in the workplace, if this were the mad men era, We'd be talking about very different sorts of interactions, where the man is walking on the outside of a sidewalk to make sure that the woman is protected.

[00:05:33] The man is holding the door always for the woman. The man is standing up at the table for the woman. The man is paying for the meal, uh, you know, and that extended into the workplace where, where the woman was considered secondary that I think has largely changed. And that's for the better, uh, you know, the fact that men and women are equals that, that you can have a date.

[00:05:52] And it's very possible that the woman was the one who invited the man on the date. And she is the one who's paying, those kind of boundaries, right. We formerly had with gender. And of course the whole gender conversation is a whole other area. But I think the fact that those boundaries and the traditional etiquette has changed, I think that's a good thing.

[00:06:11] And frankly, etiquette truly is designed to evolve over time. So there are certain things that we once did that made sense for the times that we were living in. And if you think of that set of rules evolving because circumstances change technology changes. etiquette is able to keep pace with the changes in a culture when it comes to thank you notes in particular, this, this is something I'd love to talk about, is an email, Thank you. Acceptable. sure. I would say an email. Thank you. Is better than no, thank you at all. Is a text. Thank you. acceptable again, better than no, thank you at all. However, I would say, if you want to be the one who gets another great gift, come next year for your birthday next year. If you want to be the one who gets invited back for the dinner party, again, you really want to go for the gold.

[00:07:04] You don't want to go for the lead. So, I think ideally depending on the occasion, say if the dinner. You're going to follow up the next day with a phone call to say, thank you know, Natalie. Thank you so much. What a lovely dinner, you know, your, your beef Tenderloin was just beyond compare. you know, I can't remember the last time I had such a lovely evening and the guests you invited were just delightful as well.

[00:07:25] Okay. So that's the next day phone call. And then you're going to follow that up with a, an actual handwritten thank you note. And. The fact that so few people actually go to that trouble again, if this were 1950, we all right. That's exactly it. You know, we, you know, this is back in the days of yore where everyone had their personally calligraphed note cards and you know, you sending a thank you note would be no big deal because that's what everybody would do anyway.

[00:07:52] You this time and this year as sending a thank you. Somebody really says, wow, look, this person went to the trouble. And I think for anybody who says I'm too busy, I, you know, I love the idea of a thank you note, but I simply don't have time to think about the amount of time it takes to shop for the perfect gift.

[00:08:09] Even if you're just shopping on Amazon, the amount of time it takes to prepare and cook and clean for a dinner party. The fact that you, as the recipient of someone else's generosity, can't find, and we're really only talking about two stories. Five minutes, max, to put pen to paper and write a note, I think says something about your priorities.

[00:08:30] And I think we need to reprioritize the thinking in a more tangible way, because those thank you notes. They get pinned to the cork board. They get stuck up on refrigerators, a text. You see it, delete it. Yeah,

[00:08:44] Natalie: [00:08:44] that's right. Exactly. It really makes me think of just where we are in our world today.

[00:08:51] Especially, I worry about this because I have three kids and I think a lot of families, they think, what are we teaching our kids? What values. So it's, it's about the, thank you. It's about doing the right thing, but more importantly, that to me, it's kind of, what's behind it. Like I really am. I'm grateful for you.

[00:09:08] I'm so grateful. You invited me to not just, I have to do this because my mom said I have to, you know, when it's the birthday, thank you. Or maybe when they're young, it's like, oh, do I really have to write? Yes, you have to write these thank yous because what we're really doing is we're teaching these values of, we are grateful for these people who do things for us and invite us to their homes and, and reach out to us in difficult times.

[00:09:30] And, and all of that. I mean, it's really a much more core issue to me than just. Physical, thank you. Or the email or anything like that?

[00:09:38]Thomas: [00:09:38] It's so true. And I think if you're not able to convince your audience, not, not your listening audience, but the audience, whether it's your kids or your spouse that you're trying to say, come on, just sit down and write this.

[00:09:49] Thank you. You know, get it over with, you're not able to convince them, especially when they're younger children. I think a great way to break through is. To give them the motivation that, you know, if you write this, thank you. Note the likelihood that you will get a really nice gift again, next time is greater, right?

[00:10:07] That's your incentive now that's not that selfish. Incentive is not the reason that we should be writing a thank you note, but if you're trying to persuade a youngster about the why, this is a great reason why. If you skip it entirely and say, you know, I, you know, I'd rather go outside and play softball.

[00:10:22] I don't feel like writing the thank you notes. Well, you know what, next year, next birthday, maybe there will be a present for you, right? Exactly.

[00:10:30] Natalie: [00:10:30] If it's about the thing for them, but again, teaching those values. So thank you. Notes seem to be a big topic. let's talk since we're online and a lot. A lot of things have moved online and will probably stay online.

[00:10:42] I mean, here we are doing this interview. We would have probably done in the past in person, which was nice, but it's become more simple. Let's talk about online etiquette and manners. Are there things that you have found, through the pandemic that are just wrong? They're happening the wrong way?

[00:11:00]Thomas: [00:11:00] Yes.

[00:11:00] Well, when we, when we talk about online, there are so many different ways that we can connect online. And of course, one of those being email and email probably would be a topic for a whole other conversation, but I think people have been making huge mistakes with respect to the way they correspond electronically for a long time, which is kind of funny when you think about the amount of practice that all of us have had with email, email has been around for.