Our forbearers saw no contradiction in being ruggedly manly and a refined gentleman. For centuries, well-bred men were trained in all the manly arts, from the skills needed to be a soldier to the proper etiquette for dinner parties. They were quintessential gentlemen—dapper in dress, polite in conduct, and yet every bit a true man. Lee are some examples of men who combined gritty manliness with gentlemanly bearing. They paid attention to how they dressed, groomed, and conducted themselves and were as comfortable at a stately ball as they were on the battlefield.
For these great men, having good manners did not make them less of a man, but more of one. These great men understood that while it is true that the rules of etiquette change over time and from culture to culture, the underlying principles of all manners remain constant: But these are not true manners, for: Good manners are not stiff, formal, or awkward.
Good manners should come off as entirely natural. Real naturalness comes from a few things: Forgetting yourself and concentrating on others. The more you focus on making others comfortable, the less self-conscious you will feel, and the more comfortable you will become yourself. Catering your behavior to the crowd and event in which you find yourself. Rather, they should be a habit you develop through practice over time, like a leather coat that gets softer, more comfortable, and better-looking the more you wear it.
Cultivating an inner sense of character. This is most important. At its root, naturalness in manner springs from your sincerity and desire to treat people well for the right reasons; as mentioned above, it should be a natural extension of your character.
Even if you do end up being a little awkward, if it comes from a sincere place, people will be very forgiving of it. Good manners are not ostentatious. Good manners should never be showy or call attention to themselves.
In fact they should not even be immediately noticeable in the moment and instead should create an overall positive impression, which the people with whom you interact only reflect on later: As Charles Dickens once wrote: For remember that you show courtesy to others not because they are gentlemen, but because you are one.
Good manners give you confidence. Much of what constitutes good manners consists of common sense. Good manners make a positive impression on others. A man with good manners makes enjoyable company, a welcome party guest, a referable contact, a trusted employee. Plus, as good manners are in such short supply these days, they instantly put you head and shoulders above other young men out there.
Good manners add texture to life. In our day-to-day lives, we often just move from one thing to another, as each day bleeds into the next. Thus from time immemorial people have sought a break from the ordinary by creating festivals, rituals, special occasions. Manners provide a unique texture to our lives, and contribute to adding a special atmosphere to special events — the solemnity of a funeral, the pomp of a wedding, the grace of a baptism, the significance of a graduation, even the escape of a movie.
At the same time, creating this atmosphere is a community effort —with the guy in a t-shirt and shorts, the ringing of a cell phone, or the man walking in late, the spell is broken.
Good manners make things in life smoother, more pleasant, and more comfortable for everyone. Ironically, manners both add texture to life, and make our interactions smoother. Good manners make other people feel comfortable. Have you ever been with a friend who started talking to someone who was a stranger to you, but never stopped to introduce you to him, leaving you standing there awkwardly?
Whoever makes the fewest persons uncomfortable is the best mannered man in the room. Do you like to wake up early to meet someone, only to have them be 20 minutes late? Do you enjoy it when your friend throws a tantrum after losing a round of golf?
Then live the heart of good manners: In summary, good manners make life richer and more enjoyable for you and for others.
Unfortunately, many young men are raised with very little guidance on the proper manners to cultivate for different areas of their lives. The good news is that good manners can be learned by any young man no matter his background and by any older man, no matter his age. So below we put together this etiquette study guide for a young man seeking to become a more dignified gentleman.
Go through these links at your own pace, brushing up on the ins and outs of good manners, a little bit at a time. Essential Etiquette for Young Men.