Sometimes I think manners are becoming extinct, I really do. Or maybe my perception of a considerate society is on the verge of extinction. Always having the belief that common etiquette requires simple common sense, I assumed that this was a unanimous notion. After viewing one atrocious, ill- mannered moment after another on a daily basis, I quickly realized this was not the case. Have things changed so much in two decades that it is now considered luxurious and unusual to receive a hand-written thank you note in the mail or pause for a moment of mental applause when someone lets you through in traffic?
Often times I find that the words thank you are now loaded with guilt and obligation rather than the true meaning of the gesture. I cross my toes in discomfort at the idea of someone stabbing their food with a fork and chewing with their mouth open. There are signs on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to give your seat to elders and pregnant women. It infuriates me that these signs actually have to go up. What is happening to our society that we have to be reminded of having nice manners? Oh it doesn’t stop there, it’s the simple things that irk me. Things like common courtesy, follow up phone calls, asking how you’re doing by picking up the phone and not texting, being considerate of those around you, knowing how to treat a guest in your home and when you’re out and about, introducing yourself in an audible manner.
Books on etiquette are now being replaced with more modern versions that include where and how to use your cell phone and text message etiquette, and more aptly, where not to. As much as this makes me cringe, it’s with the times and is encouraging good manners so I’ll put a proverbial sock in it for that one. I will add that it’s not a shabby idea to purchase a book or two on etiquette, it’s a small investment with the mightiest of returns, you’ll be surprised at the treasure of information you’ll find in there. Think about it for a second. People are always upgrading something or the other in their lives, their cars, homes, a piece of furniture that’s almost falling apart, cutlery, their looks, electronics, and so on. Why not upgrade yourself internally? You’re the motor that runs everything else in your life so it makes sense for you to be the best possible version of you. Imagine yourself applying for a job at a reputable and desirable company. Now imagine that the desirable and reputable company is you. Apply within. Just think about it ok? In the meantime I can sum up a few things for you based on my knowledge and endless research.
Let’s start with the obvious ‘Thank you’, yet surprisingly, not so obvious to many people. We say it a thousand times until its overused and loses it’s meaning becoming just a common nicety, but now and then it’s good to elaborate on it and soak in the gratitude of those resounding words. Enter the thank you letter. Yes, an actual hand-written one. It’s a daily fantasy that has me ensconced in Jane Austen novels, as I rendezvous with the written word and revel in a sense of romance towards the perfect juxtaposition of simple prose. Taking the time out to write a thank you note can be a powerful form of communication and as ancient as it is, it’s not obsolete and greatly appreciated when received. A small thank you loaded with genuine meaning goes a long way.
Our society is immensely multicultural with traditions that can set culturally divergent variables on how we communicate and behave with our fellow members. This still does not effect the common palette of general manners that people ought to embrace and utilize. Here’s a small accumulation of No’s-No’s: I know there are more but these seem to be amongst the least desirable.
- Coughing without covering your mouth
- Spitting- just ick.
- ‘Goose-necking’- One of my favorites! When you are conversing with someone and they are looking everywhere but at you. Bobbing their heads around in a seizure-like fashion at every moving object within a three-mile radius.
- Forgetting to say ‘Thank-You’
- Asking how much something was. Someone else’s finances are NOT your business.
- Dominating a social situation
- Failing to be humble- no one likes a bragger
- Self-importance- going around thinking you’re ‘IT’, the bomb, the Kool-Aid. Let someone else decide that
- Failing to have compassion for others in a difficult situation
- Constantly interrupting
- Starting to eat before everyone else at a dinner (although if your party consists of four or more people then it’s generally acceptable to carry on and eat).
- Communicating/calling someone only when you need something
- Chewing with your mouth open
- Waving your food infused fork in the air whilst talking
- Not opening the door for a lady
- Swearing like a sailor
- Putting a gift in a fancy department store box and giving it out as a present
- The wet fish – a sloppy handshake
- Bad breath
- Forcing your opinion on another
- Bad tippers
- Going to someone’s home for the first time empty handed
- Not cleaning up after yourself
- Not honoring your word
- Failing to reciprocate hospitality
The endmost bothers me so much that I must elaborate on my biggest pet peeve. I have one or two girlfriends that have spent days and nights in my home and I have seen their home for a total of two hours in the span of five years, and shockingly there are some that have never invited me into their personal spaces despite showing up unannounced at my home. Here’s the free advice portion of this blog: Don’t invite yourself to someone’s house and expect him or her to drop what he or she are doing to accommodate you and not return the gesture. This happened to a friend of mine that is a single parent and there is nothing more disconcerting than a guest that is oblivious to your busy schedule. Despite you telling them that you have an early morning they still seem to stay and when they do leave there is never an invitation to return the hospitality. It makes me want to grow five hands to protest and flail them around.
Peeve number Two: Not honoring your word:
“ I just can’t understand it,” a friend of mine exclaimed, shaking her head disapprovingly as she sipped her espresso at coffee last week. She was recalling the previous weekend’s events where she had been invited to a friends place for breakfast. “I went to her place, sat down and watched as she didn’t offer me the breakfast I was promised, not even a cup of coffee. I quietly stared at her working on her laptop and listening to her have a phone conversation all within ten minutes of my arrival”. This is completely unacceptable I thought – not to mention kind of mean to deprive someone of a promised morning meal. Feeling slightly jaded and confused on the drive home I wondered if good old hospitality had finally died.
Manners should be automatic, don’t save your nice manners for special occasions. Everyday is a special occasion. Say it with me! Everyday is a special occasion! Most people feel that the more comfortable they are with their friends, family or colleagues the less they need to be mindful. Alert! These are the very people you should appreciate and show your fabulous manners to the most. Why? Because if you inculcate mindfulness regularly it automatically becomes a part of who you are, it’s also the best form of verbal gratitude there is. If you are guilty of this, there is no need to get flustered, just start small. For example, when someone near and dear to you does something kind, whether it is a gift or something non-monetary, take the time out to thank him or her and follow it up with a phone call, or a note. Show someone his or her true worth and meaning in your life. You will find that being considerate is like pulling an internal string; a little tug and you have released some happiness in the air for everyone to enjoy.
Finally, I am reminded of my mother’s words playing over and over in my ear, as I am sure most parents or loved ones have told their children at some point. ‘Treat others the way you would treat yourself”. If you want the shortcut to having the best manners possible and an abundance of gratitude flowing in and out of your life always remember that everything begins with and from you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and initiate some positive change!
*A special thank you to SB and CQ for always and innately radiating kindness and consideration.