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BOOKS Manners help in any situation



Published: Tue, May 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Proper etiquette helps society run more smoothly, an author of a book on the subject says.

By SEAN BARRON

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Good etiquette is more than holding the door open for someone and leaving the house with fresh breath.

It's knowing what to say when a friend loses a baby, or when a person asks you to lie.

It's also knowing what not to say.

Two authors explore these and other themes in their new book, "As a Gentlemen Would Say" (Rutledge Hill Press, $14.99). Proper etiquette usually affects a person socially, professionally and financially, they say.

John Bridges and Bryan Curtis present more than 115 social situations with specific ways to effectively handle them. Knowing how to deal with awkward moments paves the way to building solid relationships with others.

"It needs to be about real-life situations. [It's written] to help people get through the world a little better," Bridges said in a telephone interview.

Common sense: Much about manners is grounded in common sense. But certain expectations create difficulties, such as being at a loss for the right words.

"People feel they have to say something particularly eloquent or comforting [at a funeral]. The most important thing is just to be there," Bridges said.

The author added he wants the book to reach younger readers and reinforce civility. Bridges also said he hopes it will help improve conversation skills in general.

Such a book is important, in part because people don't have the manners they used to, said Marie Childers, president of Chance of a Lifetime dating service. Good manners mean more than helping a woman with her coat.

"We teach how to wear your hair, how to shake hands. A person needs to have a good aura," she said.

Childers added about 30 percent of her clients need to improve these skills. A lack of manners and consideration for others are largely responsible for the nation's high divorce rate and contribute, in some cases, to crimes like road rage, she said.

Big issue: Rude, thoughtless and discourteous behavior are the biggest complaints Dr. Arlene Brewster sees among couples she works with. Dr. Brewster, a psychologist with Associates in Counseling Services, said etiquette also includes empathy and concern for others.

A more open society and fewer rules between men and women have contributed to a breakdown of manners, Dr. Brewster added. She also said she thinks certain talk shows have exploited people by glorifying disrespect and poor behavior.

"Etiquette greases the wheels between people," Dr. Brewster said.

Most awkward situations can be handled simply and logically, Bridges and Curtis point out. But good manners and diplomacy have broad implications.

"It's still worth talking about because it makes life run more smoothly," Bridges said.

barron@vindy.com




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