Monday, March 28, 2011

George Washington's Rules

Have you ever read “George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”?

Sometime before he turned 16, our first President wrote down these 110 rules. Our book copy has corrected and modernized spelling and sentence structure, which is helpful when quickly perusing. But there’s added charm when you read how Washington originally wrote the rules.

We’ll be checking in with Washington’s Rules every once in awhile, and I think you’ll find that they have not lost any relevance, even over 260 years later.

Here’s today’s sampling:

• “1st. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.” That’s what manners are all about: offering respect to others. Can you imagine how much more pleasant our world would be if we all followed this one rule?

• “4th. In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.” True story: someone we know once shared office space with another individual who had grown so accustomed to constantly (as in, never ceasing) humming and singing at work that surely he (or she! Not naming names!) likely didn’t even realize that he (or she!) was making a completely unproductive work environment. Sometimes, the office was treated to passionate drum solos on the desk. When gently confronted, he (or she!) was flummoxed - didn’t even realize it was happening. Long story short: Please don’t do this.

• “7th. Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Drest.” Something tells us that today’s notion of “half Drest” would shock Washington right out of his cherry tree. Certainly in any professional situation, err on the side of caution, and be fully “Drest.”

• “11th. Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.” Nail-biting is a hard habit to break, as any parent of a nail-biter knows. Not only is it not healthy (your nails are there for a reason), it doesn’t look very nice.

• “14th. Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.” This is a great reminder to children: Always remember to look someone in the eye during a conversation, and keep your hands to yourself at your school desk.

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