Modern life is full of minor but acute dilemmas: we get stuck at a gathering with someone unusually boring and wonder how to move on without causing offence; in the course of introducing one friend to another, we realise that we have forgotten one of the party’s names; we run into an ex while on an early date with a new partner; we spill red wine across a host’s sofa…
Such dilemmas might – at one level – seem desperately insignificant. But they
actually belong to some of the largest and most serious themes in social existence: how can you pursue our own agenda for happiness while at the same time honouring the sensitivities and wishes of others; how can you convey goodwill with sincerity; how can you be kind without being supine or sentimental? These dilemmas were once covered by books on etiquette or manners. The modern age often doesn’t seem to value manners, equating them with an old fashioned stuffiness, instead we are advised to communicate our feelings and tell it the way it really is.
But the result, in practice, is that we are often confused as to how to act around others and discharge our obligations to them. This book puts good manners back at the centre our lives. It features twenty case-studies on common social dilemmas and our possible responses to them, contributing to a new and original philosophy of graceful conduct. Manners are far from negligible fancies; they stand at the day-to-day end of a hugely grand and dignified mission which The School of Life is committed to: the creation of a kinder and more considerate world.