Self Development
To the Top of a Ladder
: A Rare Perspective

by DP Sabharwal
What is the place of Manners, Etiquettes and Customs in one's life? What do these words mean? If you are wondering what prompted Lilain Gish to say, "You can get through life with bad manners, but it is easier with good manners", read this interesting article.

Going up in life is everyone's ambition, if not a goal. It is natural. It is desirable.
It appears to be easy, but it is not so!
Yes, it may not seem to be difficult, but in reality it is.
The going up needs steps, the kinds in a ladder.
Everyone knows how to climb the steps, yet everyone does not reach the top.
The reasons could be many, but the fact is one.
On their way up, people keep slipping. Many of us are not aware of it, is besides the point!

Slipping is a natural phenomenon. It can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

Those keen to reach the top, however, try to find out the reasons and the factors for slippage, which could be many and varied like:

  • Steps are not smooth
  • Steps are of uneven height.
  • The step-area is wet or oily.
  • There is no railing alongside.
  • There is not enough light around.
  • Distractions like talking while climbing
  • Energy level is not sufficient
  • Shoe soles are worn out .........

If one knows the causes, the remedies can be found out. It is as simple as that.
But it requires knowledge, effort, perseverance and above all the will.
The winners do so. It is as simple as that.
Progress in real life follows the same dictum.
In every area, be it monetary, social status, esteem or respect.
The guiding factor here, however, is behaviour.
This is a ground reality that has not been disproved as yet.
Behaviour is a result of imbibed manners and etiquettes.
It results in an end result that is simple to predict and is a foregone conclusion.

Decent manners, good etiquettes, regard for customs and concern for values are the smooth steps that are bound to ensure safe climb to the top of the ladder.

Now let us see what do the terms 'manners' and 'etiquettes' really mean.

Manner is a way of doing something or the way in which a thing is done. Add suffix 's' and the resulting word 'Manners' means quite differently. Whereas Manner is concerned with the way you handle yourself, Manners are concerned with others. The manners depend on individual culture, race, and the development of a country as a whole. The core of good manners, however, is good behavior, which is based on the goodness of heart, politeness, mercy, kindness, and so on. There are common good manners, which can be used all around us on endless occasions.

Etiquettes on the other hand mean the formal rules of correct or polite behavior in a society or among members of a particular profession. It is a step higher than manners since these have evolved over the centuries in any society. These are represented in the form of standards that should never be breached like equality between men and women, giving aid to ones who cannot help themselves, being kind to children, and respecting all people's right to be free.

Custom is an accepted way of behaving or doing things in a society or community, like the custom of giving gifts on Diwali, the custom of marrying 10-12 years old girls in certain parts of the country and so on. The custom generally puts demands on an individual that an individual is obliged to do.

Needless to say, it is the customs, manners and etiquettes that describe a society, and the individuals who are part of the society. Most of the times, it reflects on an individual's grooming and upbringing. Above all, it helps an individual to rise high not only in one's own eyes but in the eye's of his colleagues and society as well. The bottom line to be remembered always is:

"You can get through life with bad manners, but it is easier with good manners." - Lilain Gish

Wg Cdr DP Sabharwal (Retd) is a post-graduate in Aeronautical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He worked in the Indian Air Force for 25 years on fighter (Hunter, MiG-21, MiG-29) aircraft and helicopters (Chetak, Cheetah, Mi-8). He sought voluntary retirement in 1995 to pursue a career in teaching and writing.

A Fellow of Institution of Engineers and the Aeronautical Society of India, Sabharwal is visiting professor at engineering and MBA institutes and a Corporate Trainer on behavioral skills. Author of 22 books including 'A Finer You' a book on personal grooming, manners and etiquettes; he is settled in Bangalore (India) and can be contacted at