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  • Writer's pictureGena Martine Santoni

Investment for a Lifetime

There are so many things that enrich our lives that have nothing to do with money. One of the best and most important is being treated well. It seems simple and obvious, but so often people are oblivious to their affect on others. But as the saying goes, ”You may not remember what someone says or does, but you’ll never forget how they made you feel.” And some people have very long memories.

At Cotillion we strive to offer your child and your family a place to instill important values for a successful society: awareness of others and the importance of courtesy; thinking of others before ourselves so as to avoid selfish behavior; how to get along with someone we don’t know very well, to converse, and to think about their comfort and well-being; how to cooperate with another and fulfill specific responsibilities, as a guest, or as a partner, in a dance, or a game, or a conversation. Overall, to put our best effort forth not only for our own success or enjoyment, but for the success and enjoyment of others, as well.

Where do our children have the opportunity to practice these values and skills? Is it in the classroom? Sometimes, depending on the teacher. But social skills are not the focus of academic learning. Is it on the soccer field? There they can certainly learn about being a team player and the responsibilities of their position. They can learn sportsmanship. They can learn to tough things out, to work at bettering their skills, to achieve a goal. But where do they learn the life skills that will serve them socially, in business, in every aspect of life involving people off the field or outside the classroom?

They learn these skills at home. They practice them under your watchful eye. But much of society is not helping to reinforce these values.

That’s where we come in. We are here to back you up. To give families a place of respite from the self-serving, hustle-bustle attitude that pervades our lives and concentrate on something that is seldom emphasized anymore: Awareness of others and the effect we have on them, the skills to make others feel at ease and make ourselves look good, thereby allowing us to put our best foot forward in any home, party, university or board room and be enthusiastically welcomed.

To some, Cotillion just seems like a party. A children’s dance. A quaint old idea from a bygone era. “Why all the dancing?” they say. But you see, it’s not about the dancing. It’s about the cooperation, the responsibility, the effort, the courtesy, the fact that you are doing something that at first seems quite awkward and uncomfortable, and finally ends up fun, and you can actually converse and dance, and lead your partner and work together all at the same time. It’s about the other person. Knowing rules of etiquette like which fork to use is useful and important. Understanding responsibility to others is more important. Dancing is just one of the ways to practice it. (Besides, women appreciate men who aren’t afraid to dance!)

So much of success is based on how we make others feel. Successful leaders know that people will give more effort, time and care to their work when they feel seen and appreciated. Treating others well is not just nice, it’s smart.

Good manners help us remember to do this, to acknowledge others even if it sometimes seems a bit perfunctory. Nonetheless, those who are trained in good manners are trained to be aware of those around them, to notice the contributions of others, to say please rather than merely expect, to say thank you instead of acting entitled. This is an interesting time in history, one that requires more cooperation and awareness than ever. Technology allows the world to shrink as communication expands rendering distance and borders obsolete. At the same time, this technology has overridden many personal skills once seen as commonplace. So much of our modern lifestyle is impersonal and revolves around speed and results. People are in the habit of focusing on themselves. Often others are treated as though they are not actually there, or, that the person on the other end of a phone call or text message, is more important. Small deeds go unnoticed as we hurry by. Smiles are not seen as we stare at the little screen in our hand. The door closes in our face instead of being held open.

Those who take the trouble to recognize and show appreciation to the people around them spread good will wherever they go. People, whether friends, family, or random strangers are uplifted by the feeling of being treated like they matter, like what they do matters. The eye contact, the smile, the praise or the thank you lets them know. And so they themselves act as if what they do matters more than they otherwise might. Acknowledgement and gratitude, whether given or received, have a powerful forward moving impact.

At Cotillion we hope to build in your children this awareness - that our own behavior impacts the world around us, influences how others perceive us, and affects the way we see ourselves. We strive to make a positive difference not only in the lives of our members, but also in the lives of those around them, wherever they might go, helping them to become effective leaders who understand the value of people, know how to make a great impression on others, and who carry a quiet confidence with them because they know what to do and what to say. Most children, and many adults today, do not.

As Thomas Sowell once said, “Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.” And yet, it doesn’t cost a dime. Just a little bit of awareness, followed by a little bit of effort, can make you and the people around you feel like millionaires. •GMS


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