Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential. We often heard from our mothers when we were little kids, how to behave in a party or when we are guests at someone's house, what to say, not to forget the sorry, thank you and please excuse me!! If we are hosts, we just have to bend backwards to do all it takes to make sure that our guests had a great time. Even if you needed a Panadol before and after they left, the smile should not leave your face. Thank God for the good upbringing and etiquettes that we were taught, the vestiges of which still remain.
In our Indian culture and tradition, hospitality is so ingrained - atithi satkar is an ethos we are all proud to wear as a badge. But I believe in a two way street. Just as the hosts are expected to play a perfect role, I feel even guests should fully reciprocate the hospitality. Now- a-days, you see some people coming for social events and not making pleasant conversation, which is a primary etiquette, but talking about their sad stories. Some don't dress appropriately, when the host has laid out the red carpet for you. What needs to be appreciated about the host is the time, effort and thought that goes in to having a dinner/function. It is that which needs to be appreciated and not whether you liked a particular dish or decoration. Those are very trivial issues.
When someone has called you for a meal or occasion, keep that time for them exclusively. I think they deserve it. Instead of being stuck to your mobiles and BBM - these are a social anathema, make eye contact when talking to the others around you, multi-tasking isn't appreciated everywhere and all the time. It is about making the person and the host, feel important enough to deserve your attention. Typing an sms and having a conversation in a party at the same time is not good manners. You aren't really the Prime Minister or the biggest business tycoon, that your empire will collapse if you give a keen eye and ear to a person talking to you. Etiquettes are just a way of showing other people that we have respect for them.
I tell my kids, if you have to say something, make sure it's nice or don't say anything. I think the elders need to hear this more. Kids in their innocence still say a lot of nice and cute stuff. Do you really think the person who has put on weight, needs to hear it from others, I am sure the mirror and tight clothes say it all. A person who has a pimple also can see it and feel it, and doesn't need to hear from you, "Oh, you have a pimple on your cheek". Or worse still a remark in a social gathering like, "Aren't you invited for that party?", making the person feel unimportant. Everyone wants to hear something pleasant, and if you can't do that, believe me, silence is golden. Each one is fighting a battle of some sort. So if you can, make someone's day.
Emily Post put this thought across so well - "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."
So instead of directing all our energies in putting our best foot forward and our fork straight when we finish the food, may be we can focus more on the sensitivity of others' feelings and not doing/saying anything to offend them.
Fortunately, the legal profession has maintained its formalities and etiquettes, whether it is respect for seniors or a formal way of addressing each other and clients. The client pays for the lawyer's time and attention hence it is common practice for both to switch off their phones. The clients come for help and advice to the lawyers. They want the lawyers to salvage their situation. A preliminary requirement for the lawyer would be to give his undivided attention to the client.
I read this quote which says it all beautifully, " Today can be a great day for you and for others - if you take time to smile at someone, to express a word of kindness, to lend a helping hand to the one in need, to say a heartfelt thank you and to give a word of encouragement to the one who is overwhelmed with trials."
All that etiquette requires of us is to admire the human race. Is that asking for too much?