Of Manners and Men . . .

mannersI had a really different kind of request recently: a friend asked if I could or would teach a class in manners — to a group of men in a rehab facility. These men were in the last phases of a yearlong recovery program, and the staff wanted to help them learn more about how to act appropriately in the workplace, now that they were working so hard on sobriety. They wanted to make sure the men would be seen clearly as worthy employees, volunteers, or friends.

Many had been struggling with addiction for years, and behaving appropriately had not necessarily been at the top of their lists . . . some had never really learned how to behave in polite company. Some weren’t sure what might be expected of them now in the workplace. Some had learned but had lost track.

Manners. Sort of an archaic word; almost seems like a joke, right? When I mentioned it to other friends, their first response was almost identical: etiquette? Tea parties and teacups? Napkins folded, spoons in the inside (or outside?), multiple forks?

Well, no.

This was much more about reminding them of appropriate behavior in an interview, a sales situation, or a workplace casual conversation. It was showing them how to be sure they could make a great impression to go along with their newfound self-image. It was learning not to give mixed messages, to use positive language any time they could, and to use their body language to inspire others to feel confident about them.

There were about 15 men, a few who did not want to be there (easy to see), but as we got going, almost everyone perked up. This was intended as a one-hour refresher, but I think the title “Manners” put a few of them off. Once they realized we could have fun with the topic — and still be serious about it — they began to volunteer their ideas. And they had a lot to say!

We talked about what having good manners meant and why it was so important. Then we moved on to specific things they thought were important. And funny enough, the first idea that came up was #6, above (in the picture)! And all the guys laughed. But it’s true: eating with your mouth closed is far better than with it open.

We talked about using appropriate language; one older man mentioned how much he disliked hearing non-stop profanity everywhere, which surprised me (and I think some of the other men in the room). He said he couldn’t imagine using such language in a “nice” setting, and by the time he finished, he at least had a few guys nodding in agreement.

While I was originally hesitant to create such a program (Manners? Really?), I finally realized that you can call it what you will, but it’s all about great communication. I took a few ideas out of my “Brush Up on Your Communication Skills” workbook, tweaked them a bit, and then just used them where it seemed important.

The best part was at the end, when there was 100% agreement that EVERYONE in the facility should attend this program, and that they all hoped I would return soon to help others. Stay tuned.

The greatest feeling in the world is knowing you’ve helped someone!

Please share with me how you’ve helped others — how did you feel? What did you do? Let’s keep this good feeling going! And if you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it with your network.