Wayback Advice: The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness

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We’ll be honest, we kind of love this series the best, because the advice is always totally out of left field. Today should be no different friends, when we tackle the 1860 classic (ok, we’re stretching the truth here, but we think it is!) by Cecil B. Hartley, The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness.

So, pop in your monocle, and find your best smoking jacket, because we’re about to dive in, and see if what applied to gentlemen in the 19th century holds true, today!

On Who Gets a Seat

“In a public assembly of any kind, a well-bred man will pay regard to the feelings and wishes of the females by whom he is surrounded. He will not secure the best seat for himself, and leave the women folk to take care of themselves. He will not be seated at all, if the meeting be crowded, and a single female appear unaccommodated.”

Ok, so there is a school of thought that exists today that a man should give up his seat for a woman, regardless of the situation. We don’t buy into that—we tend to think of who gets a seat in much more practical terms. In the workplace—if you’re a junior employee and a senior person is forced to stand, you should offer them your seat unless you have a physical reason for needing to sit (which by the way is completely valid—and does not need to be explained to anyone.) It’s just a sign of respect and courtesy, and that level of awareness could help you at the organization.

Additionally, we are always in the camp that you should offer your seat up to anyone, regardless of gender, if it’s clear they would be more comfortable sitting than standing (again, as long as you’re capable of standing the amount of time required.) We consider that a sign of good manners in this day and age, but don’t buy into the idea that women are the weaker sex and need to sit at all times.

On Pushing in a Crowd

“In a crowd never rudely push aside those who impede your progress, but wait patiently until the way is clear. If you are hurried by business of importance or an engagement, you will find that a few courteous words will open the way before you more quickly than the most violent pushing and loud talking.”

So, while the wording is a bit much, we agree with this advice too. Pushing your way through a crowd may have gotten you into a lifeboat on the Titanic (still, no joke, a historical event almost 50 years in the future to the publication date of this book) but won’t really get you anything other than a black eye during the Black Friday sales rush in 2018. Regardless of gender, pushing in a crowd doesn’t do you any favors—and you never know who you’re going to push, and how that could back fire on you. So, we’re going to agree with Cecil here, too.

On Returning Communication

“No man in the United States, excepting His Excellency, the President, can expect to receive calls unless he returns them.” 

We guess if we apply this to the modern age, to get Twitter followers, you have to follow people. Does that translate? No? We’ll dial it back. To get people to communicate with you, you have to show them that you’re appreciative of their efforts and respond to them when they do reach out. No one is going to spend their time on you if you never follow through, or make an effort on them. In your career, and in particular with your Advisors—if they’re always the one reaching out to you, and following up, they’ll soon stop. You have to match effort with effort, and you’ll be amazed at the amount of people who will be willing to spend their time and effort on you. Accountability has, apparently, been a desirable trait in someone from at least 1860 onwards.

Ok, Cecil, We Apologize

Despite the name and the age of this one, we’re pleasantly surprised at the modernness of some of the advice. Yes, there are very antiquated notions of gender (please never use “womenfolk” in any communication, ever), but overall what we sampled, with some minor to moderate tweaks, is fairly applicable today as it was 150 years ago. Go figure!