Etiquette key to decorum, graciousness
By Ann Patton , Academy Spirit staff writer
/ Published May 19, 2009
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Everybody thinks it's all about rules, Shawna Schuh told cadets about during her visit here April 24 as part of the Academy's social decorum curriculum instituted this year, but it's really more about a philosophy.
"True etiquette, or graciousness, is not about you. It's about others," she said. "It doesn't matter where you stand. It's what you stand for."
Ms. Schuh is a Certified Public Speaker and specialist in communication, human relation and business and social etiquette.
As a prelude to two presentations for all cadets first class, Ms. Schuh spoke to the cadet Women's Forum at noon on the topic, "How to be powerful without being overpowering." During that session she related with candor and humor her experiences in dance classes as a youth and how they had influenced her later life. Ms. Schuh also gave practical tips to female cadets on how to put on and take off a coat and be seated with ease.
"I want to make everybody think beyond these four years," she said. "You need etiquette and finesse your whole life."
Ms. Schuh also stressed etiquette can also become irrelevant.
"It doesn't do you any good if you're the only one who knows it," she said.
But for those who are well versed in decorum, it can be a strong advantage in many life and social situations and a deciding factor in an impression.
"People make more mistakes with people skills than anything else," she said.
Ms. Schuh also addressed the issuing of compliments to others.
"A compliment should be about the person and not a 'thing,'" she said and noted if a compliment does become about an object, it is wasted.
Donna Rosa, Academy consultant for cadet social decorum, said Ms. Schuh's visit served as both a conclusion to this year's decorum program, begun this year, and a gateway to next year's program.
"It gave them a big picture of the value of the program and a baseline," she said.
This year's program has included "Dining with the Stars" where groups of firsties dressed appropriately for and were guided through proper dining etiquette during a five-course meal in Mitchell Hall.
The decorum program has also included a fashion show to better acquaint the graduating cadets with what to wear and when.
During the day Ms. Schuh shadowed and chatted with cadets to get a better idea of their social issues.
"It's interesting and prideful to be here," she said.