Emily post described manners as “the sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.” I would add to this by saying that manners consist of a person’s conscientious behavior around others. Maybe it’s because I’m from the South, but I firmly believe how we act around other people is important.
I don’t care who you are, if you spit in front of me, fart and/or burp in my presence, or show me the food in your mouth while you chew, you are rude. Putting your elbows on the table while you’re eating, coughing in my face, sneezing on me, letting the door shut behind you when I am following you into a building….rude, rude, rude, and rude!
I’m not talking about the occasional mishap here – like when you bend over and a tiny “pffft” slips out. Or when you are impatient to add a witticism to the conversation before you forget it – and before you’ve swallowed that mouthful of broccoli. I’m talking about blatant disrespect for other people. Cultural differences notwithstanding, I think an alarming number of people nowadays simply don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves. And as a result, they have no manners.
One of the biggest problems is parents not bothering to teach their children the basics. I see it firsthand, being a parent myself. I can count on one hand the number of kids that have sat at my dinner table and NOT put their elbows on it. Or talked with food in their mouths. Or continuously interrupted the conversation. It’s not easy teaching your kids these simple things, I know. I have to remind my own boys often.
But I do it.
I do it because manners are what set people apart. At the very least, they show respect for both yourself and your fellow human being. And when it comes right down to it, manners – or lack thereof – could be the very thing that convinces a potential partner (or employer) to choose you over the next guy or gal.
I may not know the man sitting behind me on the airplane who stinks up my airspace with his nonstop flatulence, but I can guarantee you one thing:
I don’t want to.
Need some tips for teaching kids good manners? Read this. And this New York Times piece shows that manners aren’t dead. On the contrary, there are a lot more things to think about now that we are immersed in the digital age. For instance, is it okay to read your text messages or e-mails while someone is trying to talk to you? And does everyone around you really need to hear your (obnoxiously loud) cell phone conversation? Aaaarghhhhh!
Don’t even get me started.