What about Manners? Are manners really important? Is being polite necessary, or even important, anymore?
A new book to help us in our efforts to employ good manners is just off the press! It is larger than any I’ve seen before, and its sales success is assuring me that interest in our behavior has not died. Truthfully, I don’t need those publication facts, though, to tell me manners still matter. I see evidence of it every day, almost everywhere.
We are human, with feelings, or sensitivities. I step on your toe. It not only hurts physically, but it will probably arouse either anger or, if you like me, the feeling you have been affronted at least a little bit and that that fact is worthy of some recognition by me. If I don’t employ good manners by apologizing, the world has just become a little meaner for you.
I engage in a cell phone conversation about week-end plans while eating lunch with you. You will most likely feel that you don’t matter to me as much as the person on the phone does. When I end the conversation, if I can’t kindly explain why that isn’t so, you go away feeling lessened by my rudeness.
You send me an invitation to a dinner party, with a request to RSVP. I figure you don’t actually expect ME to respond because you know I always come to your parties and will probably be there. You feel a rising resentment when I show up without any idea of apologizing for my thoughtlessness.
Those are just 3 of innumerable situations where my, and your, attention to manners can make a world of difference in another’s life. Respect is at the heart of it all; caring as much about another’s feelings as we do our own. Likening the importance of manners to a competition between civility and incivility, whenever 2 or more beings interact, the playing field is in use. Unless the powerful force of respect is brought into the game by civility, the game is forfeited to incivility and, in truth, no one wins.
We aren’t living 2 centuries ago when a gentleman or lady could not speak to another gentleman or lady unless introduced by a mutual acquaintance. However, we still hold that introductions are important to good manners because they show respect for all involved.
We no longer believe that children should be seen and not heard when with their elders. However, we do encourage our young ones to speak quietly and kindly when in a social setting.
Our spoken and written words are not as embellished with deferential expressions as those of our 20th century forebears, but it is still important to us to teach our children the good manners of saying the “magic” words such as please, thank you and I’m sorry.
Are good manners dying? I think they are only changing. I will admit they often appear to lose to coarser, ruder behavior, but in the end, civility is such a powerful challenger and, besides love, it is the only one that brings true peace.
Ginger Philbrick is an author, teacher and columnist who owns “Because You Are Polite…LLC, a source for suggestions on how to employ good manners in our lives. Her works are available on her website, becauseyouarepolite.com, or you may contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.