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The President of Good Manners

Start acting as though you've already been elected.

Posted: February 14, 2008 7:47 p.m.
Updated: April 17, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Every day you are hearing and seeing presidential candidates telling us why they would make the best leader of this country. Later in the year we will each have to make our own decision and cast our vote based on what we hear the candidates say.

Meanwhile, in your own homes, out with friends, with teachers, in your workplaces, and even with strangers, you can be thinking about another type of important leadership - taking charge of using good manners at all times, in what you say and do.
We need a president of good manners.
It doesn't matter what your age is, 3 to 93, you're eligible to run for this office. All you have to do to qualify is to be an extraordinary example of using good manners every day - and want to inspire other people to do the same.
We won't have to wait until late in the year to have a president of this great cause; you can begin acting like the President of Good Manners right now.
Listed below are a few illustrations of what to say to a person in situations that could be sensitive. Because you will say it with honesty and kindness, it will be mannerly and at the same time keep valuable communication open.
Fixing anything personal for someone that can be done on the spot is OK to do. You are doing them a big favor, so don't be shy about telling them when something can be fixed.
For example: "I thought you'd want to know you have some spinach caught in your braces," or "Your blouse is unbuttoned," or "There's dust on your coat; want some help brushing it off?"
Family divorce makes many people sad. If someone you know is going through this, you can tell them, "I am feeling badly for you now. This must be really hard for you. When you feel like it, let's talk."
Gossip is talking behind someone's back. It can be true or untrue, but either way it can hurt people. If someone is spreading gossip, just say, "Danny is my friend, just like you are my friend, and I wouldn't let anyone spread rumors about you. So, let's stop talking about Danny."
Greet whoever opens the door to the house you are visiting with a nice smile and friendly words. It might be your friend's parents, other adults, or a teacher. Look them right in the eye, introduce yourself, and ask something about them, too. "Hi. It's me, ____ . I picked some flowers for you from my garden. How is your vegetable patch doing so far this season?"
House rules need to be respected. If you don't know a certain house rule while visiting in someone's home, and they call you on it, just be brave and calm and say, "I am sorry I ate potato chips in the living room, but I did not know that was your house rule. I won't do that again." Or you may want to tell your friend, "Bobby, the rule in our house is 'no baseball hats at the dinner table.' You can put yours here on the bench with mine."
Hunger pains can make you want to roar like a lion. What if you feel funny asking for something to eat while you are in someone else's house? First of all, always try to have a bite to eat before you go to someone's home, so that you don't expect them to feed you right away. Try to have a snack in your pocket or backpack too. But if you just have to eat, politely say, "Mrs. Moore, I feel funny asking you this, but is there something I could eat right now, just to hold me over until dinner? I am feeling painfully hungry. Thanks."
Introductions by kids to adults have an easy rule: Always say the name of the adult, or the person of special importance first. It sounds like this. "Aunt Linda, this is my friend Cami." "Coach Jim, this is my brother Jordan."
An invitation is a compliment to you. Someone wants you with them. Answer them as soon as possible. If you can't be there, be truthful about the reason. Making up a fib when you don't want to go can backfire on you and is not necessary. You can be honest by saying, "I am so sorry. I have already made other plans for that day," or "I wish I could be there, but I can't this time. Can we do something together next week?"
Justice for all - Be as fair as you can at all times. When someone is being unfair to you, stand up for your rights and the rights of your friends. You are the big one when you are fair-minded. "It is not fair that you took three party favors, because now there aren't enough to go around for everyone who was supposed to get one. Would you please put two back?"
Remember that you can say anything to anyone - just say it with truth and kindness, and that will get everyone's vote, every time.
Louise Elerding, personal appearance coach, is the author of "You've Got Manners!" - a series of children's books on manners. For information on manners classes in the SCV call 1-800-326-8953. The Web site is


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