Amy Alkon’s book Good Manners for Nice People who Sometims Say F*ck made me want to be a better human being. That is quite a thing to say, but I don’t mean it as clickbait or a punchy opening, it is a statement of truth.
I try to read a self-help book every month or two to pillage a few good ideas for my clients, normally those books are on business, time management, healing from trauma, or communication. Under most circumstances a book on manners and etiquette would find itself on the bottom of my lis,t but I made a point of reading this one for a couple of reasons.
First, because I adore Amy Alkon; For the last four years or so, I’ve been reading her column, her blog, and pretty much anything by her I can find anywhere else (like on Reason.com), and I figured it was high time that I expressed my appreciation by buying her books. There is truly a mad genius to the work of a woman who can write about good manners while using words like “douchenozzle” and “turdblossom” to describe rude people.
And second, because I knew, given my experience with Miss Alkon’s work, that this would not be another dry book on traditionally acceptable behaviour, nor just a silly way of reciting the rules of the table like The Feast of Tottenham. Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck is a science-driven examination of what makes us angry, what makes us feel good about ourselves, what behaviours create conflict, and what we can do to sidestep conflict while still getting people to stop treading on our boundaries.
Good Manners… doesn’t just tell us how to be polite and getting along with others, it gives us compelling, researched, and logical reasons why we ought to be polite. Including well-reasoned manners advice for cellphones and the Internet that traditional etiquette guides are not at all equipped to help us with.
I’ve always prided myself on being a picture of genteel Canadian manners. I try to treat people with dignity, I go out of my way to say hello to new people, and I try my damnedest to keep my cellphone conversations to myself. I run a small charity organization, and I try to give a little back to street performers and the odd coffee for the homeless men in my neighbourhood.
But I also live in a neighbourhood full of strangers these days; I don’t really spend much time getting to know the people on my block… or even next door anymore. Good Manners… gives simple, straightforward strategies that make that an easy task. And gives us compelling reasons why we should give them a try.
The chapter on “Trickle Down Humanity”, compelling reasons and simple strategies for making your community a better place. She points out that being a net positive on other people is really just a matter of a few easy, low-cost steps to yourself. It is hard to come away from the book and not want to bake a few cookies for your neighbours… and leave a few notes for the neighbourhood douchenozzles.
I finished the book three hours before writing this review… and I have already found ways to use the advice in it with clients. (Not to mention a bibliography that will serve as my “to read” list for several weeks.)
Books on good manners are probably not the usual fare of my readers, but with it’s sharp wit and well-reasoned approach it is definitely a book I would recommend, if you are looking for something new. Or if you find yourself dealing with a few toxic coworkers. It is also probably the first book I would hand a client ho was trying to find a better way of starting a conversation with “Baby, I love you, but I want to strangle you when you…” Which is a pretty frequent occurrence in my office.
I’d also highly recommend Amy Alkon’s website at advicegoddess.com for a fresh take on the old advice column.