What ever happened to the art of please and thank you?
In our Last Third Best Third years, we come across many changes in custom, in construct, in colloquialisms that confound us or make us cringe. Sometimes it seems to me that common sense isn’t so common any more. What happened to etiquette? Protocol? Decorum?
The art of please and thank you? Ask Emily Post
I remember a time when people had courtesy when it came to phones. Calls were never placed in public, like on a bus or at a restaurant. Of course every phone was a landline, but I feel that to not allow your phone distract you in the presence of others ought to remain an unspoken rule. That’s what I think etiquette is best defined as: a series of unspoken rules we in polite society agree to in order to show respect towards our fellows. Fundamentally, civility and respect are what is expressed by having good manners.
ABC News posted an article in December titled “Have Americans Forgot Their Manners?” In it I found the following quote: “Etiquette is not just about what fork to use,” said Sandra Morisset, a professional etiquette trainer in New York City. “It’s all about your self awareness and treating others with respect. If you’re not aware of your behavior, that’s a problem.”
You know the type. The kind who knocks your shoulder with no apology in his rush to his very important meeting. The one who unloads 37 items at the “10 Items or Less” lane. The harried shopper who barks orders at sales staff as though she’s the only customer.
Another article about manners, from the magazine Motherly, talks about how from generation to generation the unspoken rules have not remained the same: “…almost half of Americans age 18 to 29 think it is perfectly acceptable to use cell phones in restaurants, while only 22 percent of those over age 60 agree. This discrepancy indicates a clear trend in how manners and rudeness have changed over generations.”
Have you noticed that kids these days do not have the best manners? When I volunteer at my daughter’s school at lunch time, I rarely hear the children saying please and thank you, although they are certainly not shy about requesting more ketchup or cheese for their plate.
What Are Your “Pet Peeves” about Manners That Are Overlooked?
I asked friends about any etiquette “pet peeves” or manners that they feel are often overlooked.
Leon, 67, an engineer and artist whom resides in Louisiana, said “I don’t think manners are overlooked so much as they are not valued the way they once were. To pick though, I will say the degradation and lack of common courtesy and decency. I’m old-school. I was taught to say, ‘yes ma’am,’ and ‘Yes sir.’ I open door for women. I respect my elders.”
Joel, 71, a painter who lives in New England, said “When someone says pass the salt, it is good manners to pass the salt without using it on the way. Often, someone will take the request as a reminder that they are interested in salting their food.”
Joel went on to talk about how his childhood shaped his manners, “…sometimes I was shamed into stuff by my mom. Sometimes, I was impressed by the elegance of my dad. I’m sure there was more to it but I don’t recall. Oh yeah, I once got a report card in school saying I needed improvement in respecting the rights of others.” Did this report card help Joel’s parents improve his manners? Would we see such a comment on today’s report cards?
“Please pass the salt.” Manners overlooked? or not valued?
About learning manners, Leon said, “All behavior is learned. We do not come into this world knowing how to behave. Children are like sponges; they soak up everything. In my opinion they are ‘monkey-see-monkey-do,’ meaning everything I do as a parent is acceptable behavior. They learn, and do so quickly. We, as parents, must be prepared to teach.”
We know, for example, to acknowledge someone when they walk into a room, or to be respectful of personal space. A lot of this is intuitive but sometimes with children it has to be spelled out.
The Importance of Passing ‘the Art of Please and Thank You’ to the Next Generation
Shaping the future in the ways of etiquette
It is undeniably important that we pass our etiquette down to our children, because even as technology shapes the world, we shape the future by teaching the next generations to respect one another and themselves. Putting a napkin on one’s lap at dinner or excusing yourself from the table may seem like small details in our rich and complex lives, but these gestures of awareness keep us civilized, keep us kind.
What are some ways to pass down etiquette to our children and grandchildren? The tango world can give us some pointers in the right direction. Read my interview with Polly McBride speaking about the role of the Milonguero in tango dancing to see how dance can teach etiquette.
Here’s another good start: a link to a slideshow, “25 Manners Kids Should Know,” from parents.com. It is very basic stuff, but it all begins with the simple art of saying “Please” and “Thank You.”
Need an etiquette refresher? Helping your child master this list of good manners will get him noticed – for all the right reasons.
What changes in manners have you noticed in the recent years?
How did your parents teach etiquette?
How have you passed these unspoken rules down to the next generation?
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