Debora A. Davidson, PhD, OTR/L, Clinical Occupational Therapy Editor

Debora A. Davidson, PhD, OTR/L, Clinical Occupational Therapy Editor

“Manners are the happy way of doing things.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

For my 11th birthday, my mother gave me a book called “White Gloves and Party Manners,” by Mariabelle Young and Ann Buchwald, undoubtedly hoping it would assist in my transformation from an ugly duckling into a graceful swan. I recall being singularly unimpressed with its instructions about making formal introductions and using fingerbowls. (Fingerbowls were in short supply in our tiny Illinois town, situated in the middle of corn and bean fields.) It was a book written in the 1960s — for the 1950s — and I was much too modern for most of it. Still, since that time, I have acquired a great fondness for manners and etiquette. Manners actually have nothing to do with white gloves.

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” — Emily Post

Knowing how to interact with others in ways that communicate respect for their intelligence and caring for their feelings is a skill that opens minds and doors. Manners are especially important when you strongly disagree with someone, feel threatened by them or you suspect they do not know the facts of an issue. Listen fully and with an open mind, and ask questions before sharing your perspective. Try to find something about the other person’s views that you can support, or at least understand, and reference this before sharing your ideas.

Generating excitement and sharing thoughts and reactions to new ideas are all key goals of Today in OT on Facebook. Recently we had an exchange of ideas in response to a small research article about issues related to the etiology of autism. The discussion was, at times, passionate, as can be expected with a topic that is so frightening to parents, so mysterious to care providers and scientists, and so impactful to society. Some respondents seemed to feel upset when others challenged their points of view. All respondents maintained professional behavior, even though there was highly charged disagreement on some key points. This, to me, says something great about our professional culture.

“Good manners open the closed doors; bad manners close the open doors!” — Mehmet Murat ildan

I view OT as a cooperative group, both within its own membership and with colleagues from other professions. I treasure this quality, and I am writing now in support of it. I am aware that none of us is perfect. I can fall into a trap of becoming smug and self-congratulating at times, and I now will try to avoid spraining my shoulder from patting myself on the back. I simply want to encourage us as professional colleagues and friends to take the time and make the effort to ask, listen and carefully craft our interactions with one another to be as clear, accurate and respectful as possible.

Discussing and debating alternative perspectives is a huge part of being an educated, vital and involved professional. Remaining open to new perspectives and facts is what makes us scientifically grounded and evidence-based. So, please keep the conversation going, whatever the issue!

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