Far be it for me to suggest that I can write better than the late Ralph Waldo Emerson. I won't even try to paraphrase any of his writing. What I will do is to take what he's written and say it differently.
Challenge: Using prose or poetry, rewrite some famous piece of literature, poetry, opera, or song. Not the whole thing, obviously, just a sampling of a few paragraphs, stanzas, or verses. Make it your work. (Include the original text so readers can compare them.)
The soul which animates Nature is not less significantly published in the figure, movement, and gesture of animated bodies, than in its last vehicle of articulate speech. This silent and subtile language is Manners; not what, but how. Life expresses. A statue has no tongue, and needs none. Good tableaux do not need declamation. Nature tells every secret once. Yes, but in man she tells it all the time, by form, attitude, gesture, mien, face, and parts of the face, and by the whole action of the machine. The visible carriage or action of the individual, as resulting from his organization and his will combined, we call manners. What are they but thought entering the hands and feet, controlling the movements of the body, the speech and behavior?
There is always a best way of doing everything, if it be to boil an egg. Manners are the happy ways of doing things; each once a stroke of genius or of love, -- now repeated and hardened into usage. They form at last a rich varnish, with which the routine of life is washed, and its details adorned. If they are superficial, so are the dew-drops which give such a depth to the morning meadows. Manners are very communicable: men catch them from each other. Consuelo, in the romance, boasts of the lessons she had given the nobles in manners, on the stage; and, in real life, Talma taught Napoleon the arts of behavior. Genius invents fine manners, which the baron and the baroness copy very fast, and, by the advantage of a palace, better the instruction. They stereotype the lesson they have learned into a mode.
The power of manners is incessant, -- an element as unconcealable as fire. The nobility cannot in any country be disguised, and no more in a republic or a democracy, than in a kingdom. No man can resist their influence. There are certain manners which are learned in good society, of that force, that, if a person have them, he or she must be considered, and is everywhere welcome, though without beauty, or wealth, or genius. Give a boy address and accomplishments, and you give him the mastery of palaces and fortunes where he goes. He has not the trouble of earning or owning them: they solicit him to enter and possess. We send girls of a timid, retreating disposition to the boarding-school, to the riding-school, to the ballroom, or wheresoever they can come into acquaintance and nearness of leading persons of their own sex; where they might learn address, and see it near at hand. The power of a woman of fashion to lead, and also to daunt and repel, derives from their belief that she knows resources and behaviors not known to them; but when these have mastered her secret, they learn to confront her, and recover their self-possession.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mannerisms, including “body language”, gestures, and facial expressions, perhaps reflect the character of an individual more than the spoken word. Often our impression of a person is developed more by mannerisms than by what he or she says or does not say.
When we add verbal communication to mannerisms, we often refer to that as manners. Manners are infectious; good manners tend to bring out the best in others, bad manners the opposite. What are considered good or bad manners is based in part in tradition, yet generally transcends cultures. Courtesy is a form of manners which is particularly cultural.
For some, considerate manners are innate, for others they can be taught, and reinforced by example. We speak of the way one carries himself or herself, and those mannerisms can suggest where one fits into society. A man who spits in public and slaps women on the gluteal area does not come across as one appropriate to serve as president of the board of a bank, for example. By the same token, a woman who graduated at the top of her class in finishing school may not fit in well at the Homemakers’ quilting bee.