Teaching the timeless art of etiquette

Sometimes it’s hard to live up to the reputation of a famous family member, but Peter Post has been able.

Post is the great-grandson of Emily Post and, following in the footsteps of his mother, he became the fourth generation of Posts to work at the Emily Post Institute. He has recently retired and turned the reins over to the next generation: daughter Lizzie and nephew Daniel Post Senning.

Post’s career had a number of twists and turns before he joined the institute. He has a degree in art history from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in fine arts from Pratt University. Post was a teacher and tutor at Pine Ridge School in Williston, an art teacher at Mt. Abraham Union High School, the director of communication and publications at Champlain College and the owner of an advertising agency called Postscript.

Courtesy photo. Peter Post on the Spanish Steps in Italy this June.
Courtesy photo. Peter Post on the Spanish Steps in Italy this June.

Post was still at his ad agency when he began working part-time at the Emily Post Institute. His sister-in-law Peggy had taken over the reins and Peter and his sister Cindy agreed to help her out. When the two women stepped away, Peter began working full-time and eventually became managing director.

One of Post’s goals was to add a business etiquette focus to the institute. He wrote “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and began teaching business etiquette seminars.

“I did that for 13 years,” he said, “and I was probably gone every other week. It was quite an experience. I got to know the airport pretty well.”

Post’s next book, “Essential Manners for Men,” came out in October 1983. Two months later, it became a national bestseller in the self-help category.

He followed that up with “Essential Manners for Couples.” Emily Post had written a book on wedding etiquette, and Peter and Peggy wanted to update that, so they collaborated on a book about non-traditional weddings. They asked people to send them stories and then interviewed the couples, highlighting the fact that weddings don’t necessarily have to follow the same script.

Post also wrote a fifth book: “Playing Through: A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf.”

Post has lived in Charlotte since 1974 and recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Tricia. Since retiring, he has returned to his fine arts roots.

“It’s an activity where you just can’t believe how fast the time flies,” he said.

Post favors large-format paintings and the exploration of shapes. One of his first paintings was of a striped sheet which had been rolled into a ball. He enjoyed following the stripes and converting the three-dimensional figure to two. He also has a series of paintings of the interior of flowers, starting with a yellow dahlia. Three years ago, he branched out into landscapes.

Post is happy to have turned over the reins of the Emily Post Institute to the next generation, the fifth to work at the eponymous business. After 15 years at the helm, he was ready to retire and is thrilled with the work Dan and Lizzie have done. Dan had already been working at the institute for several years and Post felt that both were more than prepared for the job. Two years ago, the two completed the 20th edition of Emily Post’s original etiquette book on the centennial of its publication in 1922.

Courtesy photo. Peter Post is enjoying painting in his retirement.
Courtesy photo. Peter Post is enjoying painting in his retirement.

“It pays homage to the way Emily wrote the original,” Post said, “and it’s been a really good success.”

Post believes the concept of etiquette transcends time. “Etiquette is as valuable today as when Emily wrote her first book,” he said. “It helps people understand how to interact in a way that builds relationships rather than hurting them.”

He stressed that the medium of communication does not change the value of etiquette. “It’s based on whatever form of communication you use,” he said, “be it letters, emails or text messages.”

Post said the most important things to think about in communication are to be considerate of the people around you, respectful of the way you interact with them, and honest. “If you have those three, you’ll work well with people,” he said. “The specifics have changed but the underlying principles are the same today as they’ve always been.”

A lot of Post’s work at the Institute has been a labor of love.

“I had the opportunity to help people enjoy their lives more,” he said. “That’s a pretty good life. When people read these books, it helps them and that’s fun. How many people get to do that?”