Do you remember the story of Goldilocks and the three bears? A girl named Goldilocks sneaks into the house of a bear family when they are away. She proceeds to eat their porridge, sit in their chairs, and sleep in their bed. When they come back they are dismayed to see she has eaten their food, broken their chairs, and used their bed. Goldilocks is a bad-mannered child who gets into trouble for using and breaking other’s things without asking.

Children are often told such stories to teach them about good manners. But have you ever wondered how people know what constitutes good manners? It’s proper etiquette that teaches us how to behave in a particular way—not interrupting others mid-conversation, speaking politely or listening attentively.

Read on to learn how manners are different from etiquette and why the two are essential.

What Are Etiquette And Manners?

Both etiquette and manners play a significant role in social interactions. The two concepts revolve around human behavior and are often used interchangeably. However, the two are different at their core and shouldn’t be confused with each other.

Etiquette is a code of conduct and a set of societal rules that acts as a catalyst for positive human interactions. On the other hand, manners are behaviors that reflect a person’s attitude. A key difference between etiquette and manners is that the former changes with a change in societal customs and norms, while the latter remains largely unchanged across communities.

Etiquette provides a structure within which good manners can flourish. It’s good manners to follow proper etiquette. For example, etiquette may dictate the rules of talking to someone. In some cultures, this means introducing yourself properly to a stranger and shaking their hand. But in other cultures, shaking hands is frowned upon. Good manners will prompt you to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ when needed and not interrupt another person. These are universal courtesies.

Practicing Etiquette And Manners

The process of learning etiquette is more difficult than learning good manners. The former requires conscious effort and dedication. Moreover, etiquette changes according to customs and norms. The etiquette you display at a dinner party will be different from the way you present yourself at an office party.

Let’s look at some ways to practice proper etiquette and manners:

  1. Mind Your Language

It’s important to pay attention to the way you communicate with others. Use respectful language that makes your listeners feel valued. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to express your gratitude. Avoid speaking loudly when you’re conversing with someone.

  1. Be Friendly And Respectful

We must treat others with respect if we want to be treated respectfully. It’s possible that someone is having a bad day and behaves rudely with you. This shouldn’t prevent you from responding in a calm and composed manner. Good etiquette and manners create a culture of trust and respect, allowing you to network and collaborate with others.

  1. Dress Appropriately

Every event and place has a dress code, whether you are going to your office for work or to a company retreat. Wearing appropriate attire shows that you pay attention to details. For example, you should choose formal wear if you’re appearing for a job interview, but dress in traditional attire if you’re going to a wedding. Appropriate clothes make you look presentable and help you meet social expectations.

  1. Be On Time

A well-mannered person always arrives on time. Being on time shows that you are not only punctual but also considerate of others’ time. For example, if you have an important client meeting, aim to arrive a few minutes early to allow yourself a buffer. You can prepare for the meeting, relax or think through your ideas while you wait. You will also mitigate the possibility of being late and making a bad impression.

  1. Keep An Open Mind

In life, you will come across various kinds of people from different backgrounds.  Not everyone will agree with what you have to say or offer. There will be times when conflicts may arise due to disagreements. For example, you may be required to work with different teams, therefore collaborating with people who have different work styles. Flexibility prevents conflicts from escalating and helps maintain a positive and courteous work environment.

Importance Of Etiquette And Manners

Proper etiquette and manners are necessary for us to coexist and live in harmony. We progress as a society when we know how to behave in socially responsible ways. Let’s look at the benefits of adopting good manners and etiquette:

  • You feel more comfortable being authentic when you understand how others expect you to behave. This can boost your self-confidence

  • You tend to listen attentively and respond respectfully, which  promotes effective communication with others

  • It helps you take others’ feelings into consideration and learn how to put yourself in other’s shoes. This increases empathy

  • It helps you familiarize yourself with socio-cultural norms and treat people with kindness and respect, thus strengthening social relationships

  • You are better equipped to influence other’s views when you act according to social protocols. Thus it helps you gain respect and legitimacy

Good manners and proper etiquette not only help you develop personal relationships but also help strengthen your professional relationships. You can leave lasting impressions on your coworkers and clients when you know how to present the best version of yourself. Harappa Education’s Practicing Excellence course will teach you how to go beyond your call of duty and engage with people ethically and respectfully. The Four Selfs of Excellence framework in particular will help you learn how to present your best self to others. Make every impression count!


Explore topics such as What is EtiquetteBusiness EtiquetteMeeting EtiquetteTelephone EtiquetteEmail Etiquette & Social Etiquette from our Harappa Diaries section and improve your social skills to develop professionally.

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