Etiquette and manners are both critical to functioning in society. While both of these concepts involve rules of behavior, they are slightly different, and they involve different types of skills. They also vary from culture to culture, as standards of conduct are heavily based on cultural tradition and heritage. The primary distinction between etiquette and manners is that the first includes specific rules of conduct, while the other is more generalized.
Manners involve general behavioral guidelines, such as treating the elderly with respect and courtesy. Etiquette is a specific code of behavior, with an example of etiquette being knowledge of the proper mode of address for a queen, which is, incidentally "Your Majesty." In some societies, people regard etiquette as elitist and unnecessarily refined, but this is actually not the case. Many of the rules of etiquette are already practiced by people with good manners, and a demonstration of familiarity with good manners will mark someone as cultured, polite company.
People are typically taught manners from a very young age, so that they grow up accustomed to the basic rules of conduct about appropriate behavior in social situations. Children learn, for example, that it is not polite to stare, to make personal comments, or to cast aspersions upon the selection of food at a dinner. In childhood, people usually absorb lessons about how to treat others and how to behave in a variety of situations. Manners often become second nature when they are taught at a young age.
In order to learn etiquette, people must take specific lessons, as opposed to learning by example or through gentle correction. Rather than learning general rules about how to behave at a dinner, someone would learn specifically about which silverware to use when, how the table of precedence works, and how to politely dispose of undesirable food items. Etiquette training also involves how to deal with introductions, and how to behave in numerous environments, from funerals to shooting parties.
Both etiquette and manners rely on basic underlying principles which include treating people with respect, being sensitive to social situations, and making other people feel comfortable. People cannot learn etiquette without being schooled in manners, which lays the underlying groundwork for the rules of etiquette. Formal training in etiquette can be obtained through finishing schools, in which an instructor takes people through the rules of etiquette, or by reading texts which deal with etiquette and manners in particular societies.
Knowledge of etiquette and manners is never wasted. Someone with an awareness of manners and formal etiquette will be remembered, and this may come to his or her advantage in the future. Employers, for example, are more likely to be impressed by well mannered candidates who are familiar with the forms of business etiquette for a job opening. Good etiquette training also prepares someone for any situation, allowing him or her to deal with anything with aplomb.