Fess Up! Do You Have Bad Manners?

Bad manners are wearing us down!

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t overhear some exhausted patron or clerk, grandmother, teacher, CEO, television judge, or tennis coach exasperated by the seeming lack of manners witnessed daily. If I had a dollar for the number of times I have heard, “It is just unbelievable how rude people have become today!” I’d be loaded.

 I am not just being hypersensitive to people’s complaints because I happen to be an etiquette trainer. Quite the contrary, if I internalized all of the manners complaints that I receive via email in my role as an etiquette expert,  I probably would change careers… yesterday.  Lately, I have just noticed that the general populace believes that bad manners might be winning the war against civility.

The amusing contradiction of course is that everyone is complaining about other people’s manners but nobody seems quite aware of, or willing to, fess up to their own manners gaffs. I include myself in this group, and to drive home this point with an example, I will crassly throw my own husband under the bus. Just this past weekend, I watched my spouse repeatedly check his email from his phone while on the field coaching our son’s flag football team. I was probably doing something equally as heinous and coarse on the sidelines as I cheekily admonished his bad manners, but darned if I know what it was…

Well, I blame…

The internet, reality television, the government, texting, the football coach, and Facebook, rank high among some of today’s most favorite anti-manners villains. Were it not for outside forces “making” us behave impolitely, our manners would not be slipping. Or would they? Do outside influences have an impact on societal behavior?

Am I a victim of external sway? Have I no choice regarding my own conduct? Do the many pressures of society demand that I drop the practice of etiquette and become boorish and uncouth?

Of course not, I am completely responsible for my own actions. Yes, it is true that technology has introduced a new set of manners complexities to society, however, I have a responsibility to choose to be undaunted by today’s challenges and continue to follow basic manners principles, even online when shrouded by the curtain of internet “anonymity”. 

When we choose to act impolitely we can’t in the next breathe turn around and blame everyone else for our churlish society.  It stands to reason that if our complaint is that manners rules are slipping, collectively we are allowing our manners to slip.

If we are unable or unwilling to see our own ill-mannered behavior, and we blame everyone else for our bad-mannered society, how is it possible to turn the ship around? Why not just throw up our hands in defeat and exclaim, “Manners? I haven’t time for manners; now step aside while I notify my considerable Facebook network that I don’t much care for Mondays.”

Without manners, day to day life would be bedlam. It would be impossible to leave our homes to purchase milk if our neighbor could shoot us for our newspaper or paint our house blue to match his peonies. So as beleaguered as we all are by the stresses of life in the twenty first century, we have no choice but to practice excellent manners, model good manners and teach children etiquette. If we let manners go by the wayside it won’t take long before we live in chaos. It is inherently obvious that if just one generation is not taught how to behave politely, then good manners will quickly disappear. Who will teach etiquette to children if we don’t teach etiquette to children?

We are shocked, saddened, exhausted and a little grossed out by (as the title of the brilliant Lynne Truss’ excellent manners book says), “The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today.” But that doesn’t mean we throw in the towel, drop into an easy chair, wave a white hanky in the air, and give up on manners. If we give up, the “etiquette(ly) challenged” win.

I refuse to live in a world without manners, don’t you? Be selfish; use good manners, model good manners, and teach children etiquette so that you (and I) get to live in a more gracious society.

Now is the time to recommit to a more civilized culture. Let’s declare a war on bad manners by taking note of and improving our own etiquette. Think about all we would gain if we brought back civility, respect, and integrity. A poised, five year old little boy said it best when he quipped, “Use good manners so you don’t make everyone sick and get in trouble.” Indeed.

One Response to “Fess Up! Do You Have Bad Manners?”

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