By Olalekan Adigun
I commend the writer and publisher of this wonderful book, The Art of Refinement, for their acute understanding of times and seasons. Asides the book being the first I have ever read on the question of manners, public poises and etiquette, written by a Nigerian and by extension, an African, it has my endorsement – it is well-written.
More than ever before, the country needs people with good manners, young men of valour and poise, women of virtue and confidence, to populate our public space and entrench decorum in everything we say and do.
With indecorous acts such as fighting in public, littering the environment, and employing irreverent ways and mannerisms as tools for expression, taking their toll on several spheres of the society, including the National Assembly, the book could not have been written at a better time than now.
Essentially, it addresses the dearth of matters concerning etiquette, noticeable among Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike. The call for values and decorum clarification, especially in our political and corporate circles have largely gone unheeded, hence Mavi Isibor’s book provides the economic importance and benefits of having refined minds to promote the country’s brand.
The Art of Refinement is beautifully divided into six parts each addressing its own unique theme.
Part one deals with the essential topic of the book, Refinement. The author does her best to define refinement and the value of a refined person. She posits that a refined person is conscious of boundaries, that is, they know what to do and when to do them per time.
They do not settle for less. They always strive for excellence.
The “Ko Mean” (it doesn’t matter) syndrome which makes people just accept anything in the name of “managing” is defined by the author as “an attitude of complete and absolute disregard for excellence.
Whenever you accept a bad job from the mechanic and excuse his ignorance, you accept that it is okay to be ill-treated. (p. 25)
Part two deals with adjustments we must make to become really refined personalities. It is no surprise that this part is the longest section because it contains practical tips and steps we need to take deliberately to become truly refined personalities. Our attitudes, actions, attentions, relationships (with same or opposite sexes; in office or social gatherings); in public or private and the likes are addressed in this section.
Mavi cites examples like peeing and fighting in public; which cannot be classified as civilized actions. She also maintains that fighting in public is not only demeaning, but a show of disrespect for oneself. She says: “The truth is that a show of physical strength in public is a gross display of lack of decorum, self-dignity and self-discipline; not to mention the fact that it is outright dangerous. Fighting in public is a complete no!”
She continues: “Nobody, including your wife for whom you are fighting respects anyone who leaves his dignity shredded on the ground. You lose respect from everyone, most especially from people who do not know why you went into a fight in the first place.” (p. 75)
Part three deals with our speech, communication, and the way we relate with people through words. The author advises us to maintain decorum in speech always. She insists on us putting our brain to work before putting our mouths into gear. Decorum in speaking can save us most of the time, just like the opposite is also true. As the author writes: “Our words reveal our refinement; they reveal the quality of our upbringing, the environment we grew up in, the type of school we attended and the quality of our education, the company we have kept and our values.” (p. 161)
The book also advises us to always avoid “toxic communication” or speaking when we are angry. It covers tactful ways of conversing with others without bringing up offences in them. The courtesy of official and casual conversations are addressed in this section.
Part four focuses on speech delivery and conversations. Your means or manner of communication shows how much class you have. Learning a language is important, but if we must speak in that language we must learn the correct pronunciations, not just the grammar, so as not to be misunderstood.
In part five, Mavi addresses the question of appearance as a determinant of a person’s character and personality. This section contains advice on how to dress for different occasions. What to wear; how to wear what you wear and several of such questions are answered in this section.
The book covers social gathering and the rules that govern it in part six. A well-planned event can be marred by a poorly chosen master of ceremonies (MC), Mavi says. It can be embarrassing if one does not know how to hold the fork and knife or how to put down one’s cutlery to show that one is no longer eating or flagging the stewards to collect the plates. It also contains general rules governing protocols for public events, not just at social gatherings.
The Art of Refinement will serve as a great companion to you. It will also be a treasured companion to a business owner in relating with his/her employees or anyone who places premium value on decorum and etiquette. Politicians and all those in public office are not left out.
Everyone who values personal branding should get a copy of this book. It is a stepping stone to personal achievement and greatness.