Monday, November 5, 2012

Letitia Baldrige -- Classy & True

Letitia Baldrige

When I hear Letitia Baldrige's name, it makes me sit up straighter and try to be better behaved.

Baldrige, 86, was a walking encylopedia on what to do and what not to do in social situations and with her passing last week comes the unofficial closure on a time in American life when class and sophistication counted for something.  Also known as "Tish," Baldrige became a public name when she worked in the White House as chief of staff and social secretary to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. After her years at the White House, Baldrige then forged a high-profile and very successful career as an author and top executive in corporate life, selling milllions of books on manners, business conduct and human behavior.

Baldrige also achieved additional notoriety when she landed on the cover of Time magazine which called her "the leading arbiter of manners."

Unfortunately, the practice of good manners today is not very important and I see evidence of it every day no matter where I go. Rudeness is met with more rudeness and no one seems embarrassed by their bad behavior. People ask questions of strangers that are none of their business or people feel free to comment to strangers on what they might be wearing, eating or doing.  Why do we care about doing and acting a certain way when we are with others?  Because good manners smooth out life's rough edges and make it possible for all of us to work, socialize and just get along.

Good manners serve as guideposts, if you will, and help everyone know what is expected of them in certain situations.  From funerals and baby showers to weddings and christenings, knowing some of the basics of social editquette can help you feel comfortable when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory.

"For every rude executive who makes it to the top," she wrote in her "Complete Guide to Executive Manners" (1985), one of her numerous and popular guides to navigating social situations, "there are nine successful executives with good manners."

Don't ever doubt the power of saying a sincere "I'm sorry" to someone you know who has suffered a loss or making sure to say the magic words of "please" "thank you" and "excuse me."

Those words will never go out of style.


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