Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Modern Template for Manners

I've been pretty cranky lately about the lack of good manners in my environment. I was raised by parents who believed strongly in good behavior and good manners ... my father was the kindest and most polite of men, and when he passed away earlier this year one of the most common comments made by those who came to pay their respects was about how friendly and thoughtful he was. Mom was the same way and - for the most part - the lessons in courtesy and civility they taught have stuck and have served me well over the years. Sadly, that's not the case with many people nowadays.

I'm re-reading a little book by Lucinda Holdforth that I bought back in 2007 - Why Manners Matter: The Case for Civilized Manners in a Barbarous World. It's a short but very entertaining and thought-provoking book about why good manners are important, more today than perhaps ever before. One particularly interesting chapter contrasts manners (which come from within and help us to get along with others) and laws (which are externally imposed and force us to get along with each other ... when they're observed). Ms Holdforth makes the point that we have tens of thousands of pages of laws, with more being passed every year ... more than any sane human could possibly remember, much less obey. And what is the end result of those thousands and thousands of laws? A nation of scofflaws that ignores most of them.

Someone once observed that while the US Code has 54 "Titles" and innumerable parts, sections, subsections, paragraphs, subparagraphs, and clauses that run to many thousands of pages ... and yet God Himself* only needed Ten Commandments. Can we do better by coming up with a short template for good behavior? Something simple, easy to remember, and easy to follow?

Ms Holdforth offers this modern template for manners that is simple, yet relatively comprehensive for use in daily life:

1. Keep to the left (or to the right, depending on jurisdiction);

2. Keep your word, especially about time;

3. Wait your turn;

4. Look after the weak;

5. Obey the laws and regulations, unless you are mounting a campaign of civil disobedience;

6. Watch what you are doing; multitasking is the enemy of manners;

7. Show appreciation for the kind gestures of others; and,

8. Most of the time, shut up.

That winnows down the Ten Commandments to eight simple guidelines. We can get even shorter if we could all agree to observe the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Do you have any suggestions for simple rules of good manners? Anything that people do thoughtlessly that grinds your gears? Leave a comment and let me know.

Have a good day. And be civil to one another ... it doesn't cost anything. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Or Herself, if you will.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

It's smoother to respond to a "thank you" with "you're welcome" rather than "no problem."

Don't talk just to be filling up space."

Duckbutt said...

Don't tailgate.

Linda Kay said...

Don't call me "honey" or "sweetie" just because I'm an AARP member.

Bilbo said...

Angel: "no problem" is a stupid answer to "thank you." Glad I'm not the only person who doesn't like it.

Duckbutt: that works, especially on NoVa roads.

Linda Kay: I don't think it has to do with being an AARP member (which I am as well) ... I think it's a Southern thing. Waitresses and clerks call me "hon" or "sweetie" all the time!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I'm with Kay on that one!! I have a very strong dislike for terms of endearment from people. When I was in my 20's I received those comments while working a 2nd job in retail. I hated it so much. I would politely say, Please call me Peggy. But most continued being rude with their honey and sweetie.

It was embarrassing as a child to have my father or mother say, "What do you say?" You get that once and you won't get it again should you not mind your manners. You learn quickly that please, thank you and may I are not to be left out of your conversation even at 3 or 4. We're old Bilbo. :-)

Gonzo Dave said...

Interestingly, there was a similar discussion on my Facebook wall just yesterday, about the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think a better version is what I've heard called the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would like you to do unto them. As a trivial example, that would mean (under the Golden Rule) that I would give someone strawberries because that's what I like. But with the Platinum Rule, I'd give her watermelon if that was what *she* liked.

(And for the record, I detest "no problem" as well. I always respond to "Thank you" with either "You're welcome" or "My pleasure.")

Mike said...

I try to follow 8 most of the time.

allenwoodhaven said...

These are excellent. I'd add "be kind to everyone". That covers a lot of territory and I firmly believe the world would be a far better place if this was practiced widely.