Mind Your P’s and Q’s

The ABC’s of Professionalism

There are several stories about how the English expression, “mind your P’s and Q’s” came to be. One such theory says that 17th Century barkeepers kept track of their patrons’ consumption and would instruct them to “mind their pints and quarts.” Centuries later my Grandma used the same expression with her young grandchildren. It never dawned on me that she was concerned about my drinking habits. From the perspective of a six-year old, I assumed she was talking about my manners.

It’s a curious thing that we have so many words for this antiquated expression.  Thankfully we’re still concerned about subject, whatever one chooses to call it.

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.” — Emily Post (1872-1960)

Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.” — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

“Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.” — Emily Post (1872-1960)

“Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Civility costs nothing and buys everything.” — Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762)

“Without an acquaintance with the rules of propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.” — Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), The Confucian Analects

“Observe decorum, and it will open a path to morality.” — Mason Cooley (1927-2002)

The fact that mankind has adopted codes of behavior has been constant throughout recorded history. What have changed are the specific rules and their relative importance. The character of George Washington was strongly influenced by “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Here are a few samples:

#15 — Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean yet without showing any great concern for them.

#19 — Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.

#22 — Shew not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

#108 — When you speak of God, or His attributes, let it be seriously and with reverence. Honor and obey your natural parents although they be poor.

#110 — Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

— Catherine Millard, “Rewriting of America’s History” pp.59-60

Those with adult children know first-hand how technology and generational attitudes affect changes in the current code. Certain “P’s and Q’s” of one generation might be “don’t know and don’t care” to a younger demographic. They are busy with other priorities. I don’t have access to President Washington’s entire list, but it’s a certain bet that it does not include the proper way to “de-friend” someone from one’s cellular favorites.

Cell phones and email are among the top disruptive technologies of the last 15 years. Appropriate behaviors are still being defined and learned.  For fun, I visited some Web sites that addressed cell phone etiquette of which I chose five for comparison. The authors agreed that ringers should be off in places like theaters, cell phones and driving don’t mix, and talking louder on a cell phone is unnecessary and rude. Four of the five complained about personalized ring tones. After that, they were all over the map, indicating we don’t yet have a common baseline for cell phone etiquette.

One way to learn about manners is to Google “pet peeves”. There are pet peeve lists about cell phone usage, driving, recruiting, baseball, the workplace, the bathroom, and even pet pet peeves. Those gripes which enough people share will eventually spawn new or revised rules of etiquette.  However, these lists also contain some pretty petty pet peeves. (Maybe alliteration is on yours.)

Bad manners (good manners, too) affect everyone.

“Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude.” — Maurice Baring (1874–1945)

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.” — Author Unknown

There’s an interesting three-way relationship among respect, manners, and morals in the following quotation:

“To have respect for ourselves guides our morals; and to have a deference for others governs our manners.” — Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768)

The subtle but important meaning is an inferred relationship between morals and manners. Without this connection, manners would merely be arbitrary conventions. Good manners come in two forms: acts of kindness and omissions of kindness (things one refrains from doing or saying.) In most cases these are small, simple matters requiring little knowledge and effort.

“Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

“Good manners: The noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.” — Bennett Cerf (1898-1971)

Like all character issues, minding one’s P’s and Q’s produces tangible social and professional benefits.  In fact, the return often far exceeds the investment.

“Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.” — Thomas Sowell (1930- ), Creators Syndicate

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” — Clarence Thomas (1948- )

“Outcomes rarely turn on grand gestures or the art of the deal, but on whether you’ve sent someone a thank-you note.” — Bernie Brillstein (1931-2008), “The Little Stuff Matters Most”

P’s and Q’s can help produce “peace and quiet” in a fast-paced, stressful world for you and those whom you meet.

“Good manners and soft words have brought many a difficult thing to pass.” — Sir John Vanbrugh (1664?-1726)

God bless,

— CC

[ O=Optimism | Index | R=Responsibility ]

© Copyright November 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Let’s Not Forget Kindness

[ J=Joviality | Index | L=Language ]

Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

Would “kindness” make your top 25 list of what it means to be a professional? Kindness belongs at least in my top 10, maybe even my top five. Call it a brain cramp.  It almost missed my list entirely. For whatever reason, kindness just never entered my mind while I was mapping out “The ABC’s of Professionalism.” Imagine my embarrassment if I had not caught the omission before completing the series.

As a Christian, it is impossible for me to write about kindness without acknowledging where it comes from. Like all things good, kindness originates from God. This statement does not imply that Christians have an exclusive claim on goodness and kindness. It merely gives credit to God for the undeserved goodness He  showers on His creation. Believers and non-believers alike are the beneficiaries of God’s ubiquitous gifts of goodness. As a result, people of every faith respond with their own acts of goodness.  It is only right that believers take time to thank God for His generosity.

“The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.” — Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882)

My first instinct was to produce a process flow diagram that starts with God and arrives at kindness.  Instead, I’ll use Old Testament language: “God begets love; love and suffering beget compassion; compassion begets kindness.”

“We love Him because He first loved us.” — Bible, 1 John 4:19

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” — Bible, Galatians 5:22

God’s love is the first link.  The next link is compassion. According to Marvin Olasky, author of “The Tragedy of American Compassion,” this word literally means “suffer with.” “I feel your pain” is more than a famous presidential quotation. It’s the link between love and kindness  This thought turns on its head the notion that pain and adversity are God’s punishment.  While they can be just that, they can also be gifts intended to inspire compassion that leads to kindness.

“Compassion is the basis of all morality.” — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860)

“…count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” — Bible, James 1:2-3

There is a second chain to consider.  “God begets love; love begets gratitude; gratitude begets kindness.”

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” — Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC), ‘Pro Plancio,’ 54 B.C.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” — William Arthur Ward

Like other aspects of professionalism, we can address the inner causes of kindness, the outward results and the ways they interact with one another.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” — Bible, Galatians 5:22

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” — The Dalai Lama (1935 – )

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolutions.” — Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931)

So, what does kindness look and feel like? Acts of mutual generosity such as exchanging gifts or favors are generally thought of as kindness. Yet, the deepest most genuine forms of kindness are acts that sacrifice time, effort, treasure or life and are rendered with no expectation of reciprocity.

“To become acquainted with kindness one must be prepared to learn new things and feel new feelings. Kindness is more than a philosophy of the mind. It is a philosophy of the spirit.” — Robert J. Furey

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” — Bible, John 15:13

Pure kindness can be challenging because most of us cling to our self-centeredness. It’s almost impossible to respond to kindness opportunities while focusing on numero uno.  In extreme cases, “números uno, dos y tres” (i.e. “me, myself and I.”) is more accurate.  A special instance is the anticipated discomfort that keeps us from executing kindness toward an undesirable person.

“And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” — Bible, Mark 12:31

“For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” — Bible, Matthew 5:46

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” — Bible, Matthew 5:43-45

There are long-arm effects from compassion and kindness making them crucial leadership virtues with innumerable benefits.

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” — Scott Adams (1957 – )

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop (620 BC – 560 BC), The Lion and the Mouse

“The end result of kindness is that it draws people to you.” — Anita Roddick

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate.” — Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965)

“That best portion of a good man’s life, His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” — William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

Graciously showing kindness is a sign of strength. Graciously receiving kindness is a sign of humility. Both are signs of professionalism.

God bless,

— CC

[ J=Joviality | Index | L=Language ]

© Copyright October 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Life Planning

I’ve heard it said countless times that Americans spend more time planning their vacations than they do their lives. If true, it’s a scary thought. Maybe that’s why lately there have been ads promoting “old-fashioned ideas” like saving, budgeting, and investing. For example, have you seen the “Feed the Pig” TV ads and Website?

Americans complain endlessly about fiscal irresponsibility in Washington D.C. and rightly so But, are individual Americans any better than Uncle Sam? How much pork barrel spending is in your family budget?

“Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.” — Ronald Reagan

Since we all like thinking about and planning vacations, let’s apply what we know about that to life planning. Making a life plan requires detailed answers to just three questions:

Where do I want to go? (i.e. Vision)

“George Washington had a vision for this country. Was it three days of uninterrupted shopping?” — Jeff Melvoin, Northern Exposure, Bolt from the Blue, 1994

“If you don’t have a vision, then your reality will always be determined by other’s perceptions.” — Melanee Addison

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

“Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.” — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860)

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” — Lawrence J. Peter

Where am I right now?

“We are not in a position in which we have nothing to work with. We already have capacities, talents, direction, missions, callings.” — Abraham Maslow

“We are all born with wonderful gifts. We use these gifts to express ourselves, to amuse, to strengthen, and to communicate. We begin as children to explore and develop our talents, often unaware that we are unique, that not everyone can do what we’re doing!” — Lynn Johnston

“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” — Benjamin Franklin

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” — Helen Keller

“Time is our most precious asset, we should invest it wisely.” — Michael Levy

“If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life. Ideas are any man’s greatest asset.” — Harvey S. Firestone

What route will I take? (i.e. Plan)

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now” — Alan Lakein

“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow” — Proverb

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning” — Winston Churchill

“Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” — Denis Waitley

“I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Bible, Jeremiah 29:11

Of course, these steps only produce the plan. Execution is required to produce results, which is another topic for another day.

“Control your own destiny or someone else will.” — Jack Welch

God Bless,

— CC

© Copyright June 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com