Flipping the bird, nose picking, farting in public and failing to offer up a ‘thank you’ or ‘please’, are probably considered poor manners by many.
(Although all of these, bar the first, are a given when hanging out with my twin toddlers at the moment).
Our parents, teachers and even strangers are quick to remind us, when we fail to adhere to these social ‘codes’ or customs.
Manners, supposedly once considered the foundation of polite, civilized society now increasingly seem to be relegated to the bench and reserved only for ‘special occasions’.
‘Manners are ways of behaving with reference to polite standards’. www.dictionary.com/browse/manners
I reckon being a Mum of boys and a teacher means my manners ‘hat’ is constantly on (although hardly a pillar of politeness myself at times) in an effort to raise courteous, kind and considerate human beings.
It is refreshing though to witness manners being played out unceremoniously.
Codes of correctness or more?
There is a boy I teach who I can only describe as a ‘nice’ kid. Among his many lovely attributes, he just seems to be a well-adjusted, well-behaved, well-liked and well……. a polite teen. Almost an oxymoron!
His behaviour towards his peers has earned the respect of every kid in that class and he goes about his business with no air of overt confidence or superiority. His manners AND manner define him.
So it’s got me thinking.
Do we teach and expect manners from others for the sake of maintaining social standards or do we see it as a code by which we can gauge the quality of an individual.
And what are considered manners these days anyway, what’s their purpose and do they still matter?
The famous 19th Century novels by Jane Austen are predominately concerned with the manners of her time.
“Good company requires only birth, manners and education and, with regard to education, I’m afraid it is not very particular.” Persuasion
Some of these manners mind you included ‘In riding horseback or walking along the street, the lady always has the wall’.
Still yet to work that one out!
So yes times have certainly changed, thank goodness.
21st Century manners
Today our manners have evolved to include the way we conduct ourselves on-line, on our mobile and on the road.
But there are those staples that remain; being courteous to others with a general greeting ‘Hey, how’re you going?’ to acknowledge their presence (even if it’s with little regard for how they are actually going).
It’s offering to help someone less able than ourselves and listening…attentively, when the other is speaking.
Others include those ‘two little keys, that will open any door’ – Thank you and please.
But of course manners encompass so much more than just these.
The Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” seems to provide us with a general rule of thumb when it comes to guiding us in our actions.
But you could argue that in practice it does far more than this;
“Alerting us to everyday self-absorption, and the failure to consider our impacts on others. The rule reminds us also that we are peers to others who deserve comparable consideration.” www.iep.utm.edu/goldrule/
In a rapidly changing world, becoming seemingly smaller, yet more insular, manners seems more important than ever.
The anonymity offered up in online communities has provided a place where manners now seem obsolete.
Our crammed highways and long working hours have given rise to a new kind of road rage.
And our busy, distracted lives means certain family rituals, ripe grounds for learning and teaching manners, have fallen by the way-side.
Being a decent human
There are those individuals who are just ‘nice’, decent people and under closer analysis one could say it comes down to their manners.
Their application of that ‘Golden Rule’ perhaps? They treat you with respect, take you seriously and are generous with their time.
We all know people like this because we are usually better people ourselves, just being around them.
So yes, manners do still matter. It’s not about being ‘old-fashioned’, conservative or stuffy, because it’s not about ‘keeping standards’.
It’s simply about being a decent person.
If we want to value ourselves and others and if we want to be treated with dignity, respect or even just kindness, then manners are pivotal in this quest.
The attempt to use manners is, as Alain de Botton states an ‘Ongoing search for the best way to be kind’…… and based on the ‘highly important wish to not cause other’s distress through ones impulses or needs’
It’s not about to set the world on fire, but I reckon using manners might just be a step in the right direction.
For more interesting reads on this topic, check out the links below.