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Business And Personal Etiquette:
Habit That Annoy
Faring Forth To A Tea
Voice And Conversation
( Originally Published 1940 )
The word personality is on everyones lips today. In asking for information about prospective employees, employers use the terms "pleasing personality," "interesting personality," "desirable personality," and "undesirable personality." In this connection, the following excerpt from the New York Times is of unusual interest.
"Bad manners, bad personality and character traits have lost more jobs for beginners and employees in commercial jobs than has lack of ability or mechanical skill," said Gwynne A. Prosser of the American Institute of Banking. Mr. Prosser has had more than ten years' experience in personnel work.
"In a survey of employees who were dismissed from seventy-six firms, only 10 per cent lost their jobs because they lacked mechanical skill," Mr. Prosser said, taking his figures from a study made by H. Chanler Hunt on causes of unemployment. "The other 90 per cent did not fit their jobs because of poor character traits."
Students, therefore, must be trained in those traits that are socially desirable.
What is "character"? Does it mean the same as "personality"? To many people the word "character" has a moral significance. If a person is said to have a good character, he is thought of as morally good; while if he is said to have an undesirable character, the opposite is understood. Yet many persons who have exceptionally good characters have personalities that are most unattractive; while a villain, until he is found out, may impress everyone by his pleasing personality. "Personality" includes much more than the term "character," though character is an important factor in personality.
If a person is of good character and is intelligent-and by "intelligent" is meant his ability to acquire and to apply knowledge-then, does he necessarily have a desirable personality? Reflection reveals that he does not, for some highly intelligent persons of good character make favorable impressions, while other highly intelligent persons of good character make most unfavorable impressions. One who is mentally deficient surely cannot be said to be interesting; but neither can this be said of a pedant. Although a pedant is highly intellectual, he is often extremely boresome, because he feels that he must make a display of his learning. Intelligence in its true meaning undoubtedly is a factor that must be considered in the explanation of the term "personality: "
Does the physical make-up of a person also influence his personality?
Children who deviate greatly in size and appearance from their companions have many problems confronting them. The weak, undersized child, because he is subjected to ridicule by his playmates, may develop into a meek, purposeless adult; or he may become stubborn and vicious. He may, however, because of the lack of admiration from his associates, strive to excel in athletics, music, or school work in order to win approval. The attractive, well-built child also has his problems. If he has been idolized by his playmates, he may develop into a capable leader; or he may become a selfish, domineering adult.
Among the fellow students in one of the author's classes at the university was a young man who at each recitation attempted to refute the statements of the instructor, even at times interrupting the lecture to do so. This "queer personality" was a short, thin-faced man, with immense ears that stood out from his head. Evidently as a boy this man had been too small to fight in the usual way, and he was still fighting in the only way he had ever known. His habit of arguing had made him a highly undesirable person. How unfortunate for him that he had not acquired some desirable habit that would have made others admire him despite his size and appearance. Indeed, a person's physical make-up has much to do with his personality.
Personality consists of all the characteristics and habits -mental, physical, social, and emotional-that a person has that make him different from any other person. Each person, whether he realizes it or not, is constantly judging or being judged by everyone he meets. Each has standards of conduct that he thinks are desirable, and he judges according to these standards. Each judges in terms of "self," his own personality; and since each one is dominated by his own peculiarities, each judges in a different way. Personal mannerisms that appeal to one may be disliked by another. This makes the rating of personality very difficult. Certain standards of behavior and dress, however, are uniform and have been accepted by society in general. These standards are called the "conventions." The more that one knows of the conventions, the more competent he is to judge others, and the more he will realize how he himself is being judged.
Self-analysis and Correct Attitude
A young man once asked for a frank opinion of a business letter he had written. The letter was clear and to the point, but it was written on note paper. When it was suggested that his letter would make a better impression if it were-typed on business stationery, he made the following reply, "When I look around at older people who have good positions, I wonder if such little things make so much difference."
This young man's attitude is not unusual, though success or failure now, when so many persons are striving for the same position, often rests upon some one thing that, on the surface, appears as insignificant as the use of note paper in business correspondence appeared to this young man untrained in such matters. Sweeping conclusions must not be made hastily and without thought. Often an analysis of the problem changes the attitude, as it did with this young man.
Success in business, professional, and social life depends on the ability to make the right impressions and to adjust oneself to people and to existing conditions. Each person must analyze himself to determine how his habits, mental and physical, can be improved. When this analysis is made, however, he must have the right attitude; he must want to improve. There will be no improvement if the attitude is, "Well, what if I do have habits that some people don't like; I guess I'm not so bad. There are a lot of fellows worse than I am." The correct attitude is important. People cannot be forced to improve their personalities. Some persons seem "definitely determined to be mediocre:"
Allow No Exceptions
If the attitude is right, and the person is determined to correct his undesirable habits as he discovers them or as they are called to his attention, then he must not at first allow any exceptions in his procedure. He must make the desired reactions to specific situations in the same way, time and again, until these habits of acting and thinking are well established.
Poise, which is so important in all situations, may be acquired as a result of self-confidence, but a person cannot have confidence in himself when he is always afraid that he doesn't know. If a person has careless habits, he fails when he most wants to make the right impression; but if his habits are those that are socially acceptable, his mind is free to concentrate on other important things. Knowing the accepted procedure and knowing that this procedure is automatic give a feeling of security that contributes greatly to one's poise.