Thursday, August 13, 2015

I Really Miss Manners

You know, it's funny, but the older we get, the more we begin to understand and appreciate the fundamental things that we are taught in our youth. Some, like looking both ways before crossing the street, might seem natural, but of course, someone has to first teach us those things, and then, hopefully, we remember them. Unfortunately, one thing appears to be missing in "life basic training" for many people these days, and that thing is manners.

Now, before I start to sound preachy or like some old fogey who is out of touch with modern civilization, let me say that this is absolutely not something that applies to all people, and it is certainly not a unique product of today's social climate -- ill-mannered people have always been out there. Nevertheless, it does seem to be rearing its head with amazing regularity these days, both in formal and informal contexts.

When I was brought up in the 1960's and 1970's, manners were an intrinsic part of child rearing. The terms "please" and "thank you" were expected to be part of one's everyday repertoire, to be used freely and actively in all situations. It didn't matter whether you were having dinner with your grandparents, borrowing your friend's bicycle, or buying crowder peas at the local farmer's market -- good manners were just expected, and I believe that in addition to "oiling" social situations, they provided an air of gentility which was far reaching. When I became a teenager of driving and dating age, I was instructed by my parents that I was never to arrive at a young lady's home and honk the horn for her to appear -- that was considered disrespectful and rude. I never questioned things like this, because to be honest, I totally agreed with them. If you can't walk up to someone's front door, why are you visiting them in the first place?

Manners are truly missed when they're not there, and I see this almost every day, even in professional situations. For example, I am amazed at the frequency with which people will carry on private conversations during business meetings. Typically, while one participant has the floor, two other people will begin talking to each other at a normal volume, not in a whisper, and often about something totally unrelated to the topic at hand. They may carry on this conversation for several minutes, oblivious to the fact that others are trying to listen and contribute. Good facilitators are adept at handling such things, but personally, I find them most annoying.

Quite often in the workplace, you'll be discussing something one-on-one with a co-worker, when suddenly, someone will walk in and just begin talking, assuming that their concern is front and center. When I see this, I generally don't say anything, but often, I will either walk out abruptly or give the intruding person a look that says, "Obviously, you were raised in a barn." Maybe I shouldn't do things like this, but I can't help it -- not interrupting peoples' conversations seems so basic to me.

As much as I love social media (and I do), it is rife with instances of bad behavior and lack of manners. This of course comes as no surprise to any of us who spend parts of our days connected to each other via the ether. I look at posting and messages this way: if I would be embarrassed to say something that I'm typing, I simply don't post it. Sure, I may not see that person again for years or maybe ever again, but what if I do, what then? It's awkward to come face-to-face with someone if you've just bashed their candidate or made a crude remark about their dinner preferences, so why even do such things?

I think it all comes down to the good old Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I know I really appreciate people thanking me, holding the door for me, or asking me whether I'd like the front or back seat when heading out to lunch. I truly believe that if we, as a human race, regardless of our ethnic origins, creeds, or musical tastes, all treated each other this way, it would be a much kinder and more peaceful world. Yes, I know I've gotten preachy in this post, but please forgive me, because this is something I feel so strongly about. I'll do my part for manners by saying "thank you" for reading all the way to the end.