SHORTLY AF TER learning that my
future husband was the great-
grandson of the etiquette maven Emily
Post, I was invited to dinner with
his family. I’ll admit, I was ner-
vous. How do you act around
one of the most proper
families in America?
I shouldn’t have worried. Allen’s entire family was gracious, and I felt
welcomed. And that, I eventually came to realize, is what
etiquette is about. It’s not a list of dos
and don’ts designed to trip us up. It’s
a GPS that talks us through unfamiliar
Now I am director of The Emily Post
Institute, an organization that provides
guidance on civility. People often ask me:
Are manners relevant in today’s fast-paced, complex, and crowded world?
Consider just a few societal shifts:
body-baring fashion trends, and
open talk about religion and politics,
long considered taboo. The potential for awkward
even rude ones—is
Many people say
our polite society
has breathed its last
breath. I disagree.
As society evolves,
so must its manners.
That evolution may
be loud, clumsy,
and painful, but the
process is inevitable.
It’s the best way new
guidelines for appropriate behavior
Codes of conduct may change with the
times, but etiquette is eternal By Peggy Post
FROM TOP: THAYER GO WDY ( WARDROBE S T YLIS T: PIPI LOOSE; HAIR AND MAKEUP: S TEVEN HOEPPNER); HOLLY LINDEM
Emily Post’s principles—
honesty, respect, and
regardless of the political, social,
or cultural landscape. These ethics
are the foundation for the manners that
So, can you bend with the times? Do
you invite your grandson’s pregnant
girlfriend to dinner? Can you have a civil
chat with someone who disputes your
take on global warming? I hope your
answer to each question is yes.
I’ll be writing in this space about
etiquette conundrums, and answering
your questions online. Please share your
thoughts with me. I look forward to a
robust, polite discussion. ;
You’re about to be
introduced to your
future son-in-law, the
Your daughter is head
over heels, but maybe
you think she’s rushing things. How do
you set your reservations aside for a polite
; Rely on the basics
Let manners provide a
sense of comfort. Make
immediate eye contact.
Smile. Shake hands.
Say the young man’s
name. If these things
aren’t automatic for
you, try them.
; Confess to nerves
He may be intimidated.
Don’t use that against
him. Instead, tell him
you’re nervous yourself.
( You are, aren’t you?)
It’ll put him at ease—
and at his best.
; Take an interest
Learn something about
him beforehand, and
use it to get him talking.
“I hear you have a new
i Phone. What’s your
; Reserve judgment
Look past differences—
employment. Let this
first meeting be judgment free. Good qualities you weren’t
expecting may rise to
the surface. —P. P.