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Good manners can bring financial success

Good manners are at the root of our civilization, yet they're often viewed as overly restrictive, involving old-fashioned notions such as charm school and ballroom dancing classes. In fact, your behavior toward others can actually help boost your financial success.

"Manners are a simple exercise in give and take, and they allow our society to function effectively," says Lucinda Holdforth, author of "Why Manners Matter: What Confucius, Jefferson and Jackie O Knew and You Should Too." At their most basic, she says, they are "the small kindnesses that make the world a reasonable and decent place."

Applying that principle to your life could result in more success in climbing the career ladder, building a business and even staying within the boundaries of a personal budget.

How to succeed in business by being nice

Business is based on interpersonal skills, says Lydia Ramsey, business etiquette expert and author of "Manners that Sell." We've all encountered professionals who have a wonderful approach with people, yet might not have the high credentials and education of others who are not as good with customers, she notes. "It's the people who are simply kind and courteous who really get ahead."

Those interpersonal skills include treating everyone, from the summer intern to the boss, with respect. "I work in a very hierarchical office," says Holdforth. "I always make sure I treat people above and below with the same courtesy. This is where email or text is great: I will congratulate someone on a success with a short email. I will ask (about) their holiday or the children. I will thank them for a prompt response. Everyone wants to be treated as a person, from the CEO to the cleaner. That is how to win friends throughout an organization and (to keep) a job for as long as you want it."

But here's the key: It has to be sincere. People can tell when you're being nice just to sell them something, Holdforth notes. If it's all polite talk and no action, the other person only becomes frustrated and angry. Remember the last time you were placed on hold by a very polite, computer-generated voice on the telephone and, after 20 minutes, never got a resolution to your request or complaint? That type of behavior only worsens a relationship.

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Did you know that good manners can help boost your chances for financial success?

Good manners can trump high educational credentials when it comes to business success. Kindness and courteousness to everyone from the boss to the cleaner go a long way in helping people get ahead. But here's the caveat: It has to be sincere. People can tell if you're just being nice to sell them on your product or idea.

Go ahead, use technology to stay in touch with people, but follow up with a phone call or a personal meeting. There's no substitute for face-to-face meetings to show others that they're valued.

While good manners can help you in the workplace, you might find it uncomfortable in your personal life when presented with temptations to spend money. So when a friend wants to dine out at an expensive restaurant, be prepared to graciously decline if you know it will throw your budget out of whack to spend the money. You might say, "I've already spent so much this month," and then offer an alternative way to get together.

How to show that you value others

"With technology, it's easier to stay in touch with potential clients and customers," says Ramsey. "But you still need to follow up with phone calls, or in person. People do business with people they like." And there's no technological substitute for face-to-face meetings where you really focus on the other person and make them feel valued.

One of the biggest blunders that people or companies make, Holdforth says, is stealing other people's time. "In my view that is a massive breach of good manners. For an individual, that means turning up late or unprepared for a meeting. For a company, it means keeping people on hold, not providing enough sales staff or expecting customers to solve problems caused by the company by making them endure long complaint processes," she adds. "Save people time, and they will stay loyal. Waste or steal their time, and you will lose financially."

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