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Author Advocates for Good Manners

Where have common decency and civility gone?

Good manners have mostly disappeared from our society, says Sara Hacala , author of " Saving Civility: 52 Ways to Tame Rude, Crude, and Attitude for a Polite Planet . " A certified business etiquette and protocol trainer, she also teaches interpersonal skills to "at risk" high school students.

Hacala's theory is that if people can get beyond their differences and learn about each other, everyone would learn acceptance and be more polite. But poor social skills and a lack of civility get in the way. She says she had felt the urge to write " Saving Civility " for a very long time. "There are ways that we each can contribute to a polite planet," she writes in the introduction. Her book is divided into 52 chapters, each of which offers practical ways for us to learn to be more civil.

She emphasizes that social skills need to be learned early. "We live in a child-centered environment where only the child's feelings are important," Hacala says. "Parents are not teaching their children how to behave." She writes about a mother who insisted that the school should be teaching table manners since her kids' sports schedules prevented family meals. Hacala disagrees and says that "teaching and modeling manners begins at home, long before kids go to school or pick up a bat, ball or racket (sic)."

Hacala was surprised to learn through her research that good social skills are an accurate predictor of future success, not just in personal relationships but also in the business world. She describes a study by Wendy Levinson , professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and a researcher on physician-patient communication. Levinson wondered why some highly skilled doctors were often sued while others, who made many mistakes, were not. She discovered that it came down to a matter of respect, communicated through a person's tone of voice. "Civility goes a long way, therefore, in alleviating the deleterious effects of mistrust and anger," Hacala writes.

Hacala believes that we are all interconnected and that polite and civilized behavior is powerful and contagious. "We each can contribute to a polite planet," Hacala says.

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