“Fashion Week” has been bouncing from one hot spot to another this past month: New York, Paris, London, now Milan. I drool over some of the clothing, and wonder “Who’d ever wear that?” as I view shots of skinny models in outlandish costumes. Meanwhile, I’m preparing for a long-planned trip to Italy and wondering what to pack. My son, Lex, joins me in fashionable Rome, then we head to Sicily, before joining up with a select group in Tuscany for a food-fest. I have promised myself to pack light, knowing basic black will go far when paired with the right accessories. Maybe I should include one “over-the-top” fashion piece to pull out for dinners in various towns to shake it up?

In this flurry of pre-trip preparation, it has dawned on me: good manners are what I most need to wear—always. Not just on this upcoming trip. Manners are always in style and an individual’s best accessory. Thanks to the contentiousness of our political arena and reality TV, Americans have been gaining a world-wide reputation of being rude, combative, aggressive bullies. It’s easy to dispel these types of generalizations by following some simple etiquette rules.  Manners are a mode of action—our external and outward response and bearing towards others in all situations—and we need to consciously embrace them like any other positive character trait.  You can display bad manners by simply not using good manners, and display good manners by tolerating other people’s bad manners. A smile, a quiet voice, and a simple “Please,” or “Thank you,” is alluring to others. Manners cost nothing and yield so much, and best of all, they take up no luggage space. You simply cloak yourself in them.

As high-end real estate specialists, my partner Mike and I tend to conduct business with cultured, financially solid, well-educated and traveled clients. For the most part, we are blessed with clients that embrace good manners. And we note it. After meetings, we find ourselves commenting, “What a nice guy,” or “Isn’t she a sweetheart!” Drilling down, the reason we have this response is most-often tied to their good manners. The client showed us respect by putting their cell phone away during our meeting, or explaining ahead of time they were expecting an important call and please excuse them if they took it. They politely listened to our presentation and information and asked questions or made comments demonstrating their involvement. They thanked us for our time and appreciated our expertise.

I hear many observations these days on how our culture is running amuck. Our standards are slipping and people are divided, not respecting each other if they have opposing views. Inflammatory words are dished out, lines are drawn. Acknowledging the right to have differences of opinions is just good manners. I love the phrase, “I respectfully disagree.”  It allows for a dialog to continue, while name calling simply ignites defenses and more name calling.

I understand my son and I will be in small towns in Sicily where English is not readily spoken. We lack the knowledge of not only their language, but also many of their customs. By utilizing our good manners, the villagers will more than likely be helpful and welcoming. If we are impatient, demanding, and show irritation, the desire to assist us evaporates. It is a universal response to how we communicate in words and body language. Mike and I always respect and appreciate our clients’ communications with us when they deliver information in a polite, factual manner–even when it is news we don’t particularly welcome. We’d rather have knowledge than be blindsided. Communicating is a core component to positive relationships.

Dressing myself in good manners sounds simple, because it is simple, and I will always be stylish. There is enough stress and ugliness in the world these days without adding to it. I anticipate having a wonderful Italian vacation and meeting new friends. I will be posting to Facebook for those who wish to see the smiling faces brought about in no small part due to good manners.

Sally Uhlmann | Bozeman Luxury Real Estate