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.

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You Have the Power to Destroy a Child’s Future

Recently while at the post office, I bumped into a lovely stay-at-home mom I know. Aware of the success I have had as a mompreneur, she asked if I would mind giving her some career advice. After having been out of the workforce for the past 7 years, she was interested in contributing a few extra dollars per month to the household while perhaps also receiving a little mental stimulation. She had a few employment ideas, working part-time at a retail store in the mall or ringing up groceries, but was far from enthused about leaving her kids in the evening to make minimum wage. She also did not want to sell candles or cosmetics as a representative for one of the multi-level marketing companies.

“How did you do it? You have two kids and another on the way and you have created a great business.” she asked me. I responded to her the same way that I respond to the many people who ask, “Simple, I identified what I loved to do, I took a leap of faith and worked hard to put my passion to work in the real world.”

“Oh, I could never do that,” she said. She proceeded to list the many reasons why it would be impossible for her to tackle any sort of exciting venture that might charge her up and make her some money. With her endless list of road blocks she had literally paralyzed herself and drastically limited her options. Our short conversation left me a little depressed when it should have left me feeling excited for her exciting future. I knew that there was nothing that I could say to her to get her over the hurdles she had thrown up in front of herself.

Road blocks are the excuses people have for why they will “never be able to do it.” The fascinating thing about road blocks is they are usually very small, surmountable blips that effective people can solve before lunch. “Yeah, but, I will need liability insurance…”, “Yeah, but, I will have to get a business license…”, “Yeah, but, I will have to call people on the phone…”, “yeah, but I will have to find space to work…”, “Yeah, but, I need my sleep and can’t get up before the kids to do my work…”

Often people’s road block lists are extensive, seem never ending, and are a residual of limiting beliefs created during childhood. A limiting belief is a mental acceptance that a negative thought about oneself is true. “I am very shy so I could never speak in public.” “My brother is the smart one and I am the athlete so I could never finish that degree program.” “My father told me I would probably only be good at being a wife, so even though my idea to become an arts and crafts trainer is a good one, I better not try to start a business.” Limiting beliefs are powerful and feel very real to the person, but to the onlooker can sound like nonsense.

Limiting beliefs are not the same thing as honest self assessments, as in the following examples: “Becoming a professional tennis player is out of the question because I am 40 and have never picked up a racket;” “I am really great at running the daily operations of a company, but my abrasive personality wouldn’t be a good fit for the sales department;” and, “I worked very hard at physics in college, I even hired a private tutor, and I just do not have the mental aptitude to become a physicist.”

Parents, teachers, coaches, tutors, and trainers have a responsibility to avoid instilling limiting beliefs in children. Everyone can name at least one adult who said something so hurtful to us that we have shied away from the “offensive behavior” ever since. Having no crystal ball to see the future there is no way it is possible to know what a child is capable of achieving. Most negative assessments about a child’s abilities are at the very best premature and at the worst ridiculous, unfounded, callous, and harmful. What good does it do the child for an adult to look at his arts and crafts project and say, “Well, you probably should stop right there because you are just making a mess…too bad, but I just don’t see creativity in your future.” Or, “Manners lessons are wasted on you; you had better get used to paying high dry cleaning bills because your shirts will always be soiled.”

It is powerful to have a long-lasting and positive effect on a child. As adults we never know when a child will be touched by our words, so we should be conscious at all times of what we say and how we say it. The last thing that any well meaning, warm adult would ever want is to help introduce a limiting belief that stays with an impressionable child for life and keeps her from achieving her dreams and aspirations. Our words and actions can be the difference between someone who heads out into the world and makes things happen, and someone who sits inside too paralyzed to make a move.

Visit http://www.artsandcraftsmoms.com and become a certified arts and crafts trainer who helps build up children’s self esteem and never instills limiting beliefs in the students.