20 Ways to Cultivate Charm

Arlene Francis
Arlene Francis, always charming

When I was ten, my mom signed me up for Charm School classes at the Boulder YWCA. Unlike the tennis lessons where I felt gangly and uncoordinated, I took to charm school with a passion. We learned about cultivating nice manners, good grooming, the art of conversation, and how to set a pretty table.

Cultivate Charm bookCharm School and Home Economics classes have gone the way of the rotary-dial telephone, but I was reminded of my early love for these ideas when I stumbled across the book That Certain Something: The Magic of Charm, written by actress and TV personality Arlene Francis in 1960. Arlene was a regular on the game show “What’s My Line?” where she was always impeccably dressed and revered for her witty, thoughtful questions and remarks.

Fifty-five years ago Arlene shared her list of 20 shortcuts to charm, which I think are still wonderful concepts for today. See what you think:

Arlene Francis’s 20 Shortcuts to Charm

Arlene Francis

1. Get up happy.
2. Get organized.
3. Make sure you are well groomed.
4. Face the day without fear.
5. Forget past recriminations.
6. Do one special thing for someone else as a surprise.
7. Be a Sunday specialist – in just one subject.
8. Break down your work into small bits.
9. Do one thing a day to make your home more pleasant.
10. Wipe out one prejudice a day.
11. Force yourself to do one thing you have been embarrassed to do in the past.
12. Read something worthwhile for at least fifteen minutes each day.
13. Think about someone you dislike and wish him well even if it kills you.
14. Practice looking at a person directly in the eye, and concentrate wholly on what he is saying.
15. Spend five minutes analyzing your guilt and fears and check them for reality.
16. Clean up one job that you’ve been putting off doing for a long time.
17. Have faith in a power beyond yourself.
18. Resolve to hold your temper completely for just one day only.
19. Practice laughing at your own mistakes.
20. Practice forgetting yourself completely.

How about you?

Did you ever attend Charm School? Is charm an outdated idea, or does it have a place in today’s society? What do you think of Arlene’s list?

Here’s to your day, and may it be filled with charm and other good things,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of 15 books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

8 thoughts on “20 Ways to Cultivate Charm”

  1. What a charming post, Eliza! Thanks so much for writing it. I never attended charm school, but I sincerely long for the days when genteel manners were practiced and valued. Thanks for the 20 wonderful reminders from the glorious Arlene Francis. I remember her well. Those were the days, indeed. Best regards today!

  2. I’m so glad you remember Arlene Francis fondly like I do, Patricia. By the way, you could write a list on 20 Ways To Cultivate Grace. When I think of you, I think first of your grace. xo

  3. I’ve never been to charm school or heard of Arlene Francis, but I think this list of advice is a good one. We would all do well to think beyond ourselves as well as to look for the best in people and focus on the good in life in general.

  4. Enjoyed this post. I like knowing that Arlene Francis thought to write this list and appreciate you finding it to share. Numbers 8 and 16 are perfect for a Monday morning, facing the week.

    • Susan, breaking down work into manageable increments and tackling procrastinated tasks are both PERFECT goals for today. Thank you (and Arlene) for inspiring us, and have a wonderful week! xo


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