When my kids were growing up, their teachers often complimented their manners. In fact, it happened so often, that I began to wonder if it was that rare to find a family of children who practiced good manners.
Manners don’t just occur out of nowhere; they are taught. I’m convinced that the very best way to teach good manners is for adult role models to set the example of good manners through their own behavior.
According to author Pier Forni, “The rules of good manners are the traffic lights of human interaction. They make it so that we don’t crash into one another in everyday behavior. Our ancestors developed behaviors to show others respect, fairness, and kindness. Those have evolved into today’s manners.”
Manners provide a structure for expected behavior within society and help instill a level of respect between people. There is a difference between etiquette and manners. Etiquette provides specific rules for conduct while manners are general guidelines.
If we practice good manners, we show those around us that we are considerate of their feelings and respectful of them. By setting high standards for our own behavior, we encourage others to treat us well and with a similar level of respect.
I was brought up in a family where good manners were taught and expected. While many of our rules for good manners have changed over the years, there are still some manners which stand the test of time and societal progress.
Years ago, men always removed their hats whenever they entered a building. This, along with a few other lost manners, was something we taught our sons when they were growing up. Once, when my family was riding the monorail at Disney World, the train stopped at a hotel to pick up more guests. When my teenage sons saw that there weren’t enough seats for everyone, they both jumped up and offered their seats to the women who had just boarded. It was a proud mom moment.
Men used to always open doors for women, then during the 1970’s when the women’s liberation movement was in full swing, some women would sneer at the men who practiced this social nicety.
I don’t wait for a man to open every door, but when a door is opened for me, I respond with gratitude at the act of kindness. And, whenever I have the opportunity to open a door for another, I do so.
Recently, I was at the downtown post office in Denton. I held the door for an older lady, then stood there being the doorwoman for another minute or more because so many people were coming and going that day. It was kind of fun seeing the surprised looks on people’s faces!
We cannot be too polite to one another. In today’s society where people go out of their way to be rude and even to hurt others, those of us who believe in basic humanity and good manners must stand our ground. As I used to tell my children when they were growing up, if we don’t have rules for good behavior within our society, chaos will reign.
Manner are our informal rules for good behavior and there are some that should always be practiced. So, here they are in no particular order because they are all important.
*Open doors for others. Do this especially for people older than you, people with their arms full of packages, and most definitely for people carrying children or pushing a stroller. Someday that might be you who could use a little help!
*Use the magic words. Please, thank you, you’re welcome and excuse me really are magic words. Politeness begets politeness in return. By using these words, we show respect, consideration and appreciation toward others.
*Be on time if you have an appointment with someone. It might be okay to be fashionably late to a party, but being late for an appointment is rude…always.
Recently, my parents had a 1:30 appointment at their house with someone who was coming to talk with them about the changes in Medicare and how it could affect them. The man arrived at 2:00 and my dad said, “I’m sorry but we cannot meet with you today.”
The latecomer became irate and couldn’t believe it. My dad said he probably assumed that because they were elderly, they had no other plans and it was just fine to arrive half an hour late because they weren’t doing anything anyway.
What he didn’t know, is that my dad is a stickler for people being on time, and is also a crossing guard at a local school. There is no way would he be late for his job keeping kids safe. My dad informed the man that if he had known he was going to be late, he should have called and checked to make sure the late arrival time still worked for my parents.
*Acknowledge people. We now live in a head down society where people are always looking down at their phones, iPads, or laptops. People walk into a room and others don’t even bother to look up because they are so engrossed in social media on their devices. Good manners call for us to acknowledge people when they enter our general vicinity and even to speak and say “hello”.
*Introduce yourself if you don’t know someone. And yes, it is appropriate even for women, to shake a person’s hand and say, “It’s very nice to meet you.” Make sure your handshake is firm and not of the limp fish variety. Look them in the eye and shake like you mean it!
*Be fully present when talking with others. The art of listening seems to be going by the wayside in our fast-paced world. In a way this is understandable because our world is filled with so many distractions. Out of respect to others, we can give people our full, undivided attention and listen carefully to what they have to say until they are finished saying it.
*Do not begin eating until everyone has their food. This may seem old school to some, but it is the polite thing to do. Whether we are in a restaurant or at home, we can wait until everyone has their plate before we begin eating. Meals are an opportunity for time together and social interaction while enjoying our food.
*Practice good phone manners. According to the Washington Post, 90% of adult Americans own cell phones, and there are more cell phones than people in the United States today. You would think that proper phone manners would be taught in schools by now. Believe it or not, there is a proper way to make phone calls, especially those of a business nature.
Hello, my name is Janet Sever Hull and I’m calling for whoever is reading my blog. I’m calling today to see if you practice good manners. Thank you for your time.
You get the idea.
How many times have you been in the grocery store and someone is walking down the aisle talking away on their phone. The first time I experienced this, the person was using a hands free device and I thought they were talking to me.
Really? We can’t even go into a store for groceries without taking a call? How in the world did we survive without a phone at the grocery store 20 years ago?
Along with proper ways to make and receive phone calls, there are times when it is appropriate for us to turn the sound off on our phones or to simply put them away. You would think these would be obvious but let me list them…at school, at work, in libraries, in hospitals, doctor’s offices, at funerals, on airplanes, buses or trains, in church, at concerts or lectures, in movies, in stores, at drive through windows, in restaurants…and especially at the dinner table at home…any place that our ringing or dinging phone might disturb another person.
My local nail spa actually has a sign asking people to turn off their phones because they want to maintain a calm and serene environment for their clients.
Good manners cost nothing and take very little effort. Manners are even more important and more impressive in a world that neglects them. Good manners make a positive impression. By practicing them, we show our consideration and respect for those around us.
Author’s note: As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. What manners do you think are most important? But please, mind your manners when making your comments!