Good Manners don't cost a thing
Good Manners, we learn about them when growing up. "Don't slurp your soup or sip your drink so noisily... "A lady does not sit with her legs wide open" was a frequent one I used to hear back in the day when I was growing up in the second cycle institution. I could go on and on with the list as I'm sure many of you can too. When growing up, we learnt about the all important table manners. about how to use a fork, spoon and knife correctly, how to hold your tea cup and keep your elbows off the table. We learnt about how it was bad to reach across the table for the salt or pepper. It was rather polite to ask the person sitting closest to what you were looking for to 'pass the parcel' till it finally gets to you. This was in a bid to avoid any possible spillages and mostly to avoid encroaching on someone's personal space. Also very important in our lessons of good manners was the ever famous saying of never forgetting to say please when we wanted something and thank you, when someone has done something nice for us or gone out of their way to show as an act of involuntary kindness.
When I was growing up good manners depicted what kind of home and social background you came from and it was important that these manners were displayed at all times, be it within the home environment or not. I attended an all girls catholic boarding school, where nuns ruled the roost together with a few very strict house mistresses who would administer punishment for anything as little as an unkempt appearance. The housemistresses would remind us of the importance of displaying good manners through our actions and our mode of speech. We were constantly bombarded with reminders such as 'a lady is seen and not heard' and 'do not talk whilst you have food in your mouth'.
Good manners were however not restricted to behaviour within the home and school environment. Good, acceptable and appropriate behaviour extended to life within the broader sectrum of society. The manners we were taught would prepare us for our future interactions with other people of the society and provide us with the tools needed to make our independent observations and learning experiences.
Making the effort to incorporate simple words like please and thank you in your everyday language when the need for their use arises makes more of a difference than people realise. Good manners tells a lot about an individual. It demonstrates your self respect as well as a respect for your fellow human being in turn. Saying thank you for a favour, service or help given shows that you are appreciative of the efforts someone is making for you. It shows that gratitude for the lengths the individual has gone through to make life, simpler, easier and accessible for you.
Manners however encompass a whole load of things, from eating quietly at the table, to remembering to say please and thank you, to getting up from your seat to offer it to the person who needs it the most, to saying 'excuse me please' if you someone is standing in your way and you need to pass or even saying 'pardon' when you need someone to repeat something you have not heard. I find it really appalling when someone says "Ei" or "Mmmm" when they need me to repeat something they didn't hear me say.
I don't think I sound like a grumpy old woman when I say manners have gone down the drain these days. It costs nothing to show good manners yet it seems to be eluding the young generation of our society today. Simply put people can't be bothered anymore and to put it mildly they have lost the plot where manners are concerned. People no longer make the effort to demonstrate good manners. Saying please and thank you seems to be such a big deal for people these days especially the youth. I used to work in a bank doing face to face customer service a long time ago. The behaviour of the older generation in terms of how they composed themselves and approached us was very different from the younger generation. The old people made the effort to greet, followed with a please if they had a request or query. They never failed to say thank you afterwards. The young people thought we owed it to them to deliver the goods by virtue of our roles as customer service officers hence would simply approach us to make a request, make an enquiry or ask for assistance. The chances of being rewarded with a 'thank you' subsequently were slim. Suffice to say this was a generic observation I made and of course did not apply across the broad spectrum of the different generations.
When it comes to public transport, people do not readily offer seats to the elderly people anymore. Pregnant women stand up in the stuffy trains whilst men and women look on unperturbed. What is happening to our society today? People simply couldn't care less anymore. People are thinking of how to survive to the extent that basic social values are taking a back seat and are losing their importance and significance in helping to mould our society.
On buses even priority seats are occupied by people who do not need them. The stickers on the window stating that these are priority seats for the disbaled, elderly and parents with children, do not appear to matter any more. I boarded a bus recently with my little one on one hip and my folded push chair in the other. The bus was packed. the priority seating area was occupied by some people who technically were not supposed to be seated. I was happy to stand because I knew could manage, yet was interested to see if someone would be well mannered enough to offer me a priority seat. After what seemed like an eternity, an elderly lady rose from hers, she said to me " Go on my dear, you sit, you need it more than me", I was really touched and reassured her that I was alright. I couldn't believe that there were young people comfortably seated who didn't think to offer me a seat. To me it wasn't about being priority, it was about good manners and the principle of it which seems to be largely overlooked in our society today. The priority seats are there for people who are less able to stand when the bus is packed, not for people who technically have no business sitting on those reserved seats.
Good manners extend to how we behave outside the four walls of our home. Another thing that grates on my nerves is when I give way to my fellow drivers on the road and they fail to acknowledge my actions with a thank you. I find it very rude and sometimes wish I hadn't bothered. I think it is important to show appreciation for the effort someone makes to make life a little bit easy for you. At the till in the supermarket, at the bank, on the phone to customer service personnel, to the person who washes your car or the cab driver who drives you safely to your destination...it pays to say thank you for the help you have been given.
I was in a clothes shop the other day, a lady in a wheelchair was given priority over other customers in the queue because it was company policy. I could not believe the selfishness of a lady in the queue who started complaining loudly that the lady in the wheel chair was no better than she was. She was probably right, however its all about human compassion and sensitivity towards the immediate needs of others, and I believe good manners and empathy go hand in hand.
I have to constantly remind my children to say please and thank you as they are important manners that help in character formation and teaches us to be grateful to and accepting of others. i find it very embarrassing during occasions where my children have failed to display this all important characteristic.
Once when I was on the bus, I could not believe it when, a girl stretched her shoe covered feet on another seat. I was dismayed, first because I thought surely someone could use with the comfort of the seat, secondly she was making the seat dirty with her shoes, which meant, someone sitting on it could get their clothes dirty, and thirdly I thought she was being very disrespectful to others by not caring about their needs.
Its however never too late to salvage the situation where good manners are concerned. Lack of basic social manners have attributed to the downhill turn of social behaviour and an unacceptability of basic social norms. We can begin to demonstrate good manners by respecting ourselves, and treating others the way we would want us to be treated. People appreciate a well mannered person and are quick to give them the respect they deserve. I always say, a smile and a thank you keeps the miserable at bay and draws the grateful closer to help make your day. Educating ourselves is a good way to start, after all charity they say begins at home, and remember good manners, don't cost a thing.