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Lauren M.G. Burt: Etiquette is more than which fork to use

As someone who once worked in the political arena, the upcoming election has prompted me to examine why etiquette — and civility — are more essential today than ever before.

In this era of technology and hectic living, there seems to be rapid growth in the loss of human connection, from the campaign trail to strangers on the street.

People often ask me why I'm fascinated with etiquette and where my passions lie in the subject. Simply stated, I believe in the power of treating others with civility, having a positive, respectful attitude and deliberate actions to make people feel significant. Whether it be a handwritten note, hostess gift or random act of kindness — our partners, friends, co-workers or our favorite barista — live better when we ourselves are living thoughtfully.

In our world of the 24/7 news cycle, never-ending schedules, ambitious pressures to always do more and be more — what if we took more opportunities to say thank you, hold open more doors, or sincerely inquire about someone's day? What if people with different political, religious or professional views chose to have informed and mindful conversations instead of character attacks and blasting social media posts? What if common courtesy was in fact, common?

To live deliberately is to practice a lifestyle of etiquette. To take the approach of being kinder to those who share the world with us. I think occasions in life and special events deserve extra attention and a touch of consideration that can be shown in many ways including acting and dressing appropriately, being present, and most importantly, thinking of others before oneself. Meaningful moments are what make life significant, and cultivating our behavior and sense of awareness creates those exact moments.

I am not perfect, but I am not striving for perfection. What I am striving for is a life that enables those around me to be happier, thoughtful and live the best life possible.

If I can make that type of impact with my actions, words and relationships, then I am living graciously. There are deeper reasons at play than where to place your napkin or which fork to use. At the end of the day and at the bottom of everything, all we have is our character and how we make others feel, and in return — how they make us feel.

Many centuries ago a man once said, "Manners maketh man" — a statement that should still resonate in our modern times. We are all strangers to each other until one person takes a step and extends him or herself. I believe in the power of a smile and saying hello.

That kinder words and actions can truly change the world. To the readers of this column, my hope and intention is that you embrace the ability to live thoughtfully and have compassion, for that is the true importance of etiquette.