How to mind one’s modern manners

Unexpected lessons from actress Liv Tyler

Liv Tyler is best known as an actress (The Lord of the Rings), a model, and the daughter of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler. Who would have expected her to co-author a seamless mixture of old-school etiquette and personal anecdotes about manners? But so she has in the recently published Modern Manners, written with her grandmother Dorothea Johnson, an etiquette teacher who taught Tyler table manners early on. It’s a clear and simple guide that also happens to be useful for university students poised to enter the professional world.

Modern Manners is divided into six sections: “Meetings and Greetings”, “On the Job”, “Electronic Communications”, “Out and About”, “Dining Skills”, and “The Savvy Host”. The advice is predominantly geared towards young and middle-aged adults who are establishing careers and professional relationships and hoping to be recognized and treated with respect. Johnson and Tyler point out that in today’s competitive workforce, your expertise may not be enough to set you apart; knowing how to get along with others and being aware of what makes people feel comfortable or uncomfortable is vital to success, as are simple, humble small acts of kindness.

This book is arranged in an eclectic, interactive way: rather than just paragraphs of dos and don’ts, bubbles throughout the book present random historical facts and reminders. One  “Did You Know?” bubble contains advice on greeting people who enter the room, with a fun summary of greeting rituals across different cultures. The “General Cellphone Etiquette” section includes a reminder that Rob Ford could have benefitted from had he read Johnson and Tyler’s book: “Do remember that anyone with a cell phone can record what you’re saying, take photographs, and/or send messages letting others know where you are.”

Johnson and Tyler’s Modern Manners is a must-read for young adults interested in conforming to the highest etiquette practices. And as Tyler’s grandmother always told her, “It’s better to know it and not need it than to need it and not know it.”

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