Do you believe there’s a need for improved etiquette in our ever-increasing hectic and informal lives?
Shelly Seeger does, and she set out to do something about it by creating her business, Modern Etiquette. Eventually offering a variety of programs for children as well as adults, Seeger’s initial focus will be on kids and teens.
Seeger believes etiquette doesn’t have to mean stuffy attitudes or stiff, unnatural posturing. She’s created an etiquette model that fits into today’s modern lifestyles—and one that makes learning fun for kids. For instance, The Polite Child and The Confident Teen programs both end with a meal at a local restaurant.
Here, Seeger talks with Santa Cruz Patch and provides further insights into her business and her beliefs about modern etiquette.
Santa Cruz Patch: Teaching etiquette is an uncommon business model. What made you decide to pursue this line of work?
Shelly Seeger: The majority of my career has been based on helping people develop both personally and professionally. I managed high-end restaurants for many years, and one of the joys of the job was shepherding people with potential into management roles. Also, I have always been interested in improving my own etiquette. To that end, I sought out formal training. Once I was involved in learning etiquette, I became passionate about teaching it to others.
I see a clear need for the principals of good etiquette. It boils down to the simple concept of people being kind and respectful to each other. This is especially true among children.
After completing my training as an etiquette consultant, I discovered there were few opportunities in the Bay Area for people to learn etiquette—and formed my company, Modern Etiquette.
Patch: It seems society is becoming more and more casual. Where does etiquette fit into the modern lifestyle?
Seeger: There is a pervasive idea that a casual society and one grounded in basic etiquette are mutually exclusive. I have found the opposite to be true. Casual is different from rude. The formality required … varies depending on the social situation. Etiquette provides the knowledge to understand the nuances of social interactions, even in a casual environment.
What we need to address are the changes in our society. This is as relevant in our modern, stressful world as it has ever been. The simple courtesy of saying "hello" to an office mate or "thank you" to a store clerk make the world a friendlier place. We need positive interactions in difficult times.
Patch: You’re certified as an “Etiquette Consultant” by the Etiquette Institute of Saint Louis, MO. What’s required to receive this certification?
Seeger: Maria Everding, who founded The Etiquette Institute, is an internationally recognized authority on social and business etiquette and a sought-after speaker.
Her certified etiquette consultation course includes verbal communication, visual communication, children’s etiquette and social business etiquette among other topics.
Patch: Though you’ll also eventually work with adults, why did you choose to focus on children’s etiquette to launch your business?
Seeger: I love working with children. I’ve worked with a variety of children’s charities for many years and seen the need for etiquette education. There is such a sense of satisfaction in seeing a child grow in confidence and maturity. Giving children an understanding of proper social behavior gives them an advantage over their peers. It will serve them well for their entire lives and benefit the society that they help form.
Patch: What do you hope children will get out of attending your etiquette courses?
Seeger: My primary goal is for them to learn kindness through understanding how their behavior affects others and reflects on themselves. This extends into communication and sportsmanship. I also want them to have fun. When learning is a joy, the lessons sink in more easily. I want them to be excited to share what they’ve learned with friends and family. Repetition makes for strong reinforcement and retention of what they’ve learned.
Patch: How do you engage children and teens and get them interested in learning etiquette?
Seeger: Modern Etiquette courses are interactive. Students are involved in activities that help them learn. I teach small groups, up to 12, and individuals. This provides personal attention to every child.
For example, when learning to set a table, each child is given specific responsibilities and then the group sets the table. Everyone has a part and is encouraged to support the other students. I teach techno-etiquette for taking telephone messages and talking on cell phones. We use role-playing and simulated conversations. Each child gets a turn, while the others learn to be patient and courteous.
I provide proactive tools to help transfer the lessons from the classroom into the real world. Each week there’s a different tool. It might be an extra-long pencil to remind them to sit up straight, some gummy worms that encourage them not to give a limp handshake, or a notepad for taking telephone messages. The key is to engage them during the entire class and encourage enthusiasm at home.
Patch: Anything else you’d like to add?
Seeger: Having worked with children’s charities, I’m thrilled to be part of the community teaching children. I’m passionate about providing them with the essentials of proper manners and behavior. At Modern Etiquette, our motto is “Success Through Social Confidence.” Teens and young children who practice good etiquette will benefit from it for years to come.
While I’m starting by teaching children, I’m equally excited to begin working with adults. Passionate about fine dining, I’m looking forward to teaching dining etiquette. Corporate seminars will provide an opportunity for me to work with my husband, whose expertise in business etiquette is a direct result of decades of hands-on practical experience.