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Good manners a passion for Pickerington etiquette specialist
Messenger photo by Lori Smith
In an era where etiquette and manners often seem to go by the wayside, Pickerington resident Sheryl Abernathy is passionate about educating people on the traditional ways of communicating, entertaining and conducting business.
Pickerington resident Sheryl Abernathy can sum up her fascination with etiquette and manners pretty quickly: “It’s all about being kind. Kindness and civility – that is to me the basis for all the different rules out there.”
The soft-spoken and articulate Abernathy, an information technology manager for the state of Ohio, grew up in central Ohio and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Ohio State . Her career blossomed, but she always felt something was missing.
“I love what I do there but I always felt like I should be doing something else,” Abernathy admitted.
When she took a class Oprah Winfrey offered on life and purpose, “One of the questions was ‘What are you passionate about?’ I couldn’t answer the question.”
Then one day she was at church and they asked for volunteers to help with an event.
“One of the things we did was set the table. I got so excited about setting the table. That’s when it clicked – this is what I’m passionate about.”
Abernathy decided to enroll in The Etiquette Institute in St. Louis, Mo. After graduating, she formed the company, “Abundant Grace and Charm: The Etiquette Institute of Central Ohio,” to promote the use of social graces as standard practice and to support the creation and maintenance of positive, wholesome relationships.
“I always wanted to incorporate tea, so I took an online course and got a certification as a tea specialist,” she said.
Not long after, she formed Pots and Pinkies, Ltd. – a company dedicated to teaching the joy and etiquette of afternoon tea and the art of hosting afternoon tea parties. Her long-term goal is to have a tea room in the central Ohio area.
“That’s what I’d love to do when I retire from the state.”
Her clients are a varied group – from scouting groups and small businesses to college students and sororities.
“Anybody who is interested in tea or etiquette – I can tailor a program to their needs,” she said.
She also volunteers her services with non-profit groups, such as senior or community centers, and is hoping to expand that focus in 2012.
Technology and media
Abernathy recalled a recent evening when she was dining out a restaurant. Two men were sitting at a table and a third guest joined them – via speaker phone. As she and the other diners listened to them yell into the cell phone, she watched another family of five fiddle with their cell phones – and throughout their meal, none of them were speaking a word to each other.
That’s when it hit her head-on: “Technology is starting to replace human interaction.”
“A lot of manners and etiquette were always taught at home around the dinner meal,” she said. “We lose a lot of opportunities when we don’t eat together as a family. Table manners are best taught at the table.”
She emphasized that it’s not so much which fork to use that is important – it is being kind and gracious that is the key.
“I think we have to be cautious, particularly as adults, in letting children know it is the relationship that matters.”
She is also concerned about the examples being set for children, teens and young adults on television. Abernathy cited “The Real Housewives” series as an example.
“The women behave atrociously on those programs,” she said, noting she hasn’t watched a lot of the series but in her brief exposure to it she has seen plenty of rude behavior such as yelling, cursing and screaming – even physical violence. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
She said there needs to be a clear message in the media: “It is wrong to mistreat people. It’s just unacceptable. It’s growing, and it’s scary to me.”
Behavior like that doesn’t teach people how to handle difficult situations, she said.
“It’s a lot easier to be mean and rude than it takes to exercise self-discipline and control.”
Common courtesy and going the extra mile
Who needs help with etiquette the most?
“I would probably say the 20-somethings right now,” Abernathy said. “I think that a lot of them have grown up with technology, but with that they are so focused on ‘me.’ They need help and a little guidance on how their behavior affects others. And if they aren’t taught, they won’t pass it down.”
Holding a door for someone carrying a heavy package just doesn’t come natural to them, Abernathy said.
“To me, when you can teach them to find new ways to be nice to others – that’s fun to me, that’s exciting,” she said.
Something as simple as teaching them how to write a thank-you note can make a huge difference, not only in their personal world but also their professional lives.
“Think about how you feel – you feel special when you get a thank-you card,” she said. “It gives you a chance to express how much it meant to you.”
It also means a lot in the business world, she said.
“Whatever the occasion, it is noticed and very highly regarded,” she said. “If you take the time, you can always find something to be grateful for. When you do things that are kind – that’s what people remember.”
For more information, contact Abundant Grace and Charm at 614-404-9995 or visit the website
Resources suggested by local etiquette consultant
For those interested in learning more about etiquette, local etiquette consultant Sheryl Abernathy suggests the following resources:
“They have a wonderful website,” Abernathy explained, noting that Emily Post was an American author famous for writing about etiquette. Although she has long since passed, her family has carried on her legacy – and recently released the book “Etiquette – 18th Edition: Manners for a New World .” It is described as an essential tool in navigating 21st century communication and tackles modern issues – everything from texting and tweeting to iPhones and Facebook.
Abernathy commented, “She’s written two good books on business etiquette.” Her most recent is “Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities that Distinguish Outstanding Professionals.” Whitmore, a leading international etiquette expert, is the founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach.
The Etiquette Institute in St. Louis , Mo. is where Abernathy studied. Everding is the founder and president of the Etiquette Institute, where she trains and certifies individuals to become etiquette consultants. She is author of the book “Panache That Pays,” which is written for the college senior and young professional.
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