Modern Manners – a personal insight into being mindful of your manners in the 21st Century
Manners don’t cost a thing yet could cost you a whole lot if you don’t adhere to them
Would you consider yourself someone who is polite, who has good manners, who isn’t rude and is courteous to others? Do you expect people to behave well or does it not really bother you?
Manners and politeness don’t actually cost anything yet, unfortunately, these seem to go AWOL more and more often these days when there really is no need. I’ve had a number of occasions recently where I’ve experienced bad manners and rudeness and it’s made me start thinking more and more about what has happened in society as a whole for manners and politeness not to be adhered to as much as they have been in the past. It seems that people get away with discourteous behaviour more now than previously and, if they do behave in this way, then they’re not brought up on it as much. Maybe because of fear of reprisal, maybe because their behaviour hasn’t actually bothered someone enough for something to be said or maybe because the person who experienced the bad behaviour didn’t think it warranted it.
I sometimes get told off for being quite particular about how I expect other people to behave and I do let it affect me too much at times. I expect please and thank you, I expect responses to emails/texts/call, I expect acknowledgement when I’ve sent a card, a present, something that was asked for, I expect to be consulted on decisions that will affect me, I expect not to be ignored, I expect people to be honest in a constructive way, I expect kindness, common courtesy and respect, I expect people to be fully present when they are with me, I expect people to say excuse me if they accidentally bump into me, and … I have expectations for myself to also do all of these things.
I’ve sent email and text messages to people and not received responses, even ones where I’ve asked questions or for a response, and I spend ages wondering what I should do about it. Do I let it go, do I send another message, do I say something about how it’s bothered me? I’ve sent birthday cards and I don’t have a clue whether or not someone has received them, so I think do I ask them if they’ve received it or do I just leave it. I brought my daughters up to always write thank you cards for birthday presents and cards and whereas I don’t expect that so much it would be nice to receive an acknowledgement of sorts, even a quick text to say thanks! I phone and leave messages and don’t have the calls returned and I wonder if I should call again or does that seem like too much? I also get kind of irritated when I hold open doors for people and don’t get thanked and when I wait patiently in my car to allow someone through and there’s no acknowledgment, I’ve taking to waving at people who do that now!
And ….. don’t get me started on social etiquette on social media, it doesn’t always seem to be apparent! I guess because it’s so fast moving that it’s not always easy to keep up but there are ways to still be polite, kind and considerate. If someone has asked a question on a post try to answer it, if someone has a new business page like it (you don't have to always receive content from it if it becomes too much but liking it has helped the person build up more awareness for their business), if a post warrants a comment then comment on it but try to avoid the negativity - if you can't say something nice then don't say anything at all.
I have questioned maybe I’m too sensitive to it, perhaps I take it too personally, and maybe I should relax a bit more about it, perhaps, but then that’s not being true to myself and my values and if something affects me detrimentally surely I should be able to say something about it? I care about how people behave, I care about common courtesy, I’ve always believed that having good manners and being polite is a reflection of who you are and how you treat people. No, I’ve not always adhered to this myself and I have been brought up on it, quite rightly, but I’ve always tried to make sure I reply if a reply is required, I’ve returned calls, I’ve said please and thank you, even if there are times when I don’t feel like doing so, sometimes I can be quite stubborn!
Sometimes I haven’t felt like replying, responding, calling back because it’s quite a difficult thing that is being discussed or I’m not sure how to do so without causing potential upset to the other person, or doing so in a way that is coherent and honest. The thing is the longer you put things off, or if you don’t respond then this starts to create bad feelings and maybe some misunderstandings which could have been avoided.
How we behave in terms of our manners and politeness does affect the different areas of our lives and how people treat and/or respond to you, in your personal relationships, in your working life, socially and whether you come across in a negative or positive way. I’ve worked in many different roles through my working life where I’ve been responsible for recruiting staff and evaluating their performance and I always took into account their manners, politeness and how they conducted themselves. I’ve also worked for people whose manners and politeness left a lot to be desired which led to me losing a lot of respect for them, eventually leading me to leaving the job.
What are good manners?
Courtesy, politeness and having good manners are all about respecting yourself and others. Good manners is about considering the feelings of other people, and being the kind of person that others will like and respect. In the 'olden days' children were taught about the Golden Rule - "Always do to others as you would wish them to do to you if you were in their place." (http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=2526)
Being mindful of your manners
Basic good manners should be a given – saying excuse me, saying please and thank you, being respectful, especially to those in a specific position of respect like teachers and your boss/superiors – even if you don’t think they warrant your respect you still need to behave in a way that is respectful otherwise it is a reflection on you. If you’re not happy with how they behave then there are appropriate ways in which to manage this, being discourteous is not one of them.
Acknowledging people, whether in person or via the phone, via email, text and so on. Don’t ignore someone, however hard that may be, the issue won’t go away and you’ve allowed yourself to treat someone how you would not want to be treated. Doing this lets people know that they are important to you and that you are respectful of their time and who they are. Remember, if someone is discourteous to you that is down to them. There is no excuse, reason or justification for rudeness, bad manners or being impolite. Irrespective of what’s happened/is happening everyone has a choice in how to react and/or behave. Make sure that you react/behave with good grace and good manners, even if your initial reaction is to do otherwise.
Being polite and gracious - when conversing with someone, listen to them, don’t talk over or interrupt them, make sure that you’re understood and you’ve understood the other person, don’t be distracted, be fully engaged and don’t be on your phone! If someone has done well at something tell them and congratulate them, even if you may not have done so well, work on not being bitter or resentful, instead praise them and identify how can do better yourself next time – it’s called being a good sport and will always stand you in good stead if you can behave like this.
Not gossiping – it is so easy to be dragged into gossip and to be not so nice about other people but always think how would you feel if people were doing/saying the same about you. I’ve also always believed that if someone can be derogatory about someone to you then they’ll be doing the same about you to someone else. If you need to say something about someone else say it to them and do so in a non-judgemental way. Even if someone has done wrong there are ways to deal with it without being overly critical.
‘There is always a polite way to say what needs to be said – but some things don’t need to be said at all. Don’t use “honesty” as an excuse to be mean or rude’ (https://forgottenmanners.wordpress.com/)
Pay attention to your appearance which will be different according to the situation and circumstances, whether it’s for a job interview, to go to work, college, a party and so on. How you look after yourself is also a reflection on you as a person and it’s important to be well presented in a way that is true to you and appropriate to where you are.
Be respectful of other people when using your mobile phone in public so that it doesn’t cause upset or disturbance to others – this is a real irritation to me when I’m on a train and I’m having to listen to one side of a conversation that I have no particular interest in.
Avoid contacting people via phone at inappropriate times unless it’s an absolute emergency – late at night, early in the morning, when they’re not at work (if it’s work related), when you know they’re busy or otherwise engaged.
Contacting someone first before dropping in to see them, even if it’s for a quick visit – you never know what they may be up to!
Letting people know if you can’t attend a social engagement, a meeting, a fitness class, an interview, anything that you have been invited to, are expected to attend or have been attending regularly. This is definitely something that I know that I’m not alone in experiencing. We all have lots of different pulls on our time but it doesn’t take long to just let someone know that you can’t attend something and it is common courtesy to do so. Sometimes I have forgotten myself but even if it’s after the event I have apologised and made a mental note to not be so discourteous next time as I would not like that to happen to me.
Avoid being over critical and judgemental – as human beings it is in our nature to judge and comment but it is down to us how we do this and manage it. If you need to bring someone up on something be constructive about it and also, always try to find something positive to say as well. When you start judging someone try to stop yourself and ask is it really necessary, why are you judging, what have they done wrong to you, is it really something that you need to worry about, is it something that you can do something about?
Take a step back before responding – sometimes this is all you may need to behave in a courteous and polite manner rather than one that is rude and that could potentially cause offence. Whereas there are times when I have wanted to call someone up on their behaviour I’ve now tried to take a different approach and rather than call them up on it, or behave as they have done, I have taken time out to think about it. Sometimes it’s best to just let something go as, no matter what you do, you can’t make someone behave in a way that they don’t want to behave. I’ve also found this a useful tool when I may have received, what I perceive, to be a rudely put message (text, email and such like) – I try to take the higher ground, not be reactive but state my case (if required) in a factual reasonable way and word what I need/want to say in a polite and positive manner.
Being the bigger person
The points mentioned above take just a small amount of your time yet could mean the world to the person to whom you’re responding/interacting with. You may not think it means much but to some people it does, even to those who say they’re not bothered I think that a lot of the time people have just become accepting of being ignored, not thanked and such like and make excuses for such behaviour – oh they’re busy, they don’t have time, oh they don’t expect a response, a thank you and so on.
I do believe that the majority of these people would like to ask the other person why they’ve behaved as they have but don’t always know the best way how to do so and maybe there’s also times when they don’t feel worthy enough to warrant a response so they allow other people to get away with the bad manners and such like. Maybe there is a good reason but you won’t find out unless you ask and if you do this and they still continue as they are then maybe it’s best to let it go – you can’t make people change or respond how you’d like to but you can control how you manage it.
If you struggle to let things go then have a read of another of my blogs, all about letting go - http://www.pangaeatraining.com/pangaea-training-blog/591/letting-go.aspx
Going forward, try to make sure that you always do your best to be kind, polite, courteous and respectful of others and yourself – ‘good manners will often take people where neither money nor education will take them’ - try not to take how other people behave too personally, and if I slip at anytime please feel to bring me up on it, in a nice, kind, courteous, non-judgemental way of course!
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