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Manners and Etiquette for the Modern Age

Updated on March 12, 2012

Do Manners Still Matter?

Everyone is in such a hurry these days. People are pushing, shoving, interrupting, and doing everything they can to insure "me first." In other words, their behavior is the height of bad manners. However, manners do still matter--perhaps now more than ever.

Back in the day, manners were known by all, and were the grease that made society function. Well, it seems the grease has broken down, and needs to be replaced.

We, as a society have become increasingly selfish and self-absorbed; this is evident at every level, from the person walking around the grocery store carrying on an endless conversation on their cell phone, oblivious to the fact that they and their cart are blocking the aisle; the inconsiderate creep who parks in such a way as to block access to two other spaces; the brazen businessperson who barges past everyone else as if they are not there; the cheating lazy so-and-so who parks in a handicapped space without proper credentials; the store clerk who is so busy chatting with her co-worker that she fails to notice customers waiting; to the extreme end of the spectrum with the street thug blowing someone away with a gunshot for some alleged insult.

Bad Manners Are Costly

Being rude, inconsiderate, selfish, unkind or just plain unaware can cost you everything from a friendship to a business deal to, in the extreme case cited above, your very life. That's not to say that you should become a doormat, and let people walk all over you. That's not to imply you should not defend yourseslf if threatened with physical harm. Those are not the kinds of scenarios we're discussing here.

People think etiquette guru Emily Post is dead. (Well, technically, she is; she lived from October 27, 1872 – September 25,1960.) However, her famous works on good manners for polite society gave rise to The Emily Post Institute. Her great-granddaughters are still in charge at the institution and provide the answers to questions in an etiquette advice column, as well a several books on manners.

While most people today never need to know which fork to use first at a formal dinner, or how to arrange the seating for such a dinner, most seem to need constant reminding of the most basic level of manners, such as "please," "thank you" and "excuse me."

Manners: A Matter of Rules and Laws???!!

If you think about it, to some extent, yes--there has been an attempt to legislate what ought to be good manners. Another name for good manners is "common decency." And that is the source of many laws--an attempt to legislate two things formerly considered common--sense and decency.

A perfect example is the law requiring you to leave behind a note with your name and phone number should you run into car with your own vehicle, while the other car is parked and the owner not present. Shouldn't that be a simple manner of good manners, a.k.a. common decency, a.k.a. honor? It is in my book.

Similarly, on board buses, we see signs advising people to save the forward-most seats for the elderly or infirm. No one should need to be reminded so publicly of such basic good manners.

Public Manners vs. At-Home Manners

In an ideal world, there really should be no such difference. In practice, however, there is. How much difference depends upon the individual families. In some homes, the strictest and most formal manners are enforced at all times. This is a mixed blessing. Those people will, indeed, usually be very polite when out in public, and their children will be raised by those standards.

The other side of the coin, however, allows for rebellion against such rigidity; it could end up the reverse, that kids raised so strictly raise Cain when away from parental supervision. It is impossible to ride herd on kids 24 hours a day once they reach school age. So, I'm all in favor of relaxing a bit on the homefront. Not that we should not treat our family with respect as much as we do strangers or casual acquaintances, just that we should allow for additional familiarity.

For example, if you are all sitting down to watch a movie, a certain amount of goofing off--within the family--can be tolerated. This can possibly include such games as tossing popcorn up and catching it open-mouthed; certainly not the done thing when out in public.

A child eating at home can be excused for drinking the last of her milk from the cereal right out of the bowl; but when visiting or at a restaurant, either leave it or use a spoon.

Those are just a couple of minor examples of 'at home' vs. 'in public' manners.

Respect Others' Personal Space

No one likes to feel hemmed in and crowded. I understand that the definition and distance of "personal space" varies between cultures. However, I would advise use of the old adage, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." And this applies to any country in which you may live or visit.

There are certain cultures whose customs I would find too uncomfortable on a personal level, so rather than travel there, do as I choose, and offend those whose home country it is, I stay home.

The reverse is true. There are cultures where pushing, shoving, and even being "professionally pushed" into train cars like so many sardines is considered the acceptable thing to do: here in the U.S.A., it is not.

Our definition of "personal space" is much wider, and it applies to all public situations from standing in lines to general crowds. Basically, stand with your palms propped on your hip bones, and turn in a circle; you should bump into no one. Leave that much space between you and the next person in light crowds or checkout lines. If you do not have room to do that, you are infringing on someone's personal space.

In very crowded situations, such as standing-room-only concerts, or buses and trains at commute hour, the spacing will be much closer, but we certainly do not employ "people packers" here. Even in these conditions, there should be room for shuffling of feet for balance; room to raise an arm to the grab-bar, and space to "scooch" past folks when your stop approaches.

Shopping Manners

If you are shopping, please, please, remember "excuse me" when reaching across someone to select an item, or if you bump into them by accident. And don't push and shove your way through as if you own the aisle, acting as if the other people are just so many empty boxes. It is very rude, and can also be hazardous, especially if you happen to bump into someone with poor balance or a health condition such as an elderly person.

At the risk of appearing rude myself and offending some measure of the population, I simply must address the above admonishion particularly to those who are morbidly overweight. They may or may not have a medical condition that has caused the extra weight, and I sympathize with that. I have also known many folks who face the challenge of trying to drop over a hundred extra pounds, and I realize it is difficult in the extreme.

However, I have so many times been nearly run down by such persons that I am obliged to say this: you may well have once been very slender, and have an "inner thin person" waiting to get out. But in the meantime, please realise the actual space you occupy, and allow for that when going past folks in the store. Sadly, it is not your thinner self that is actually in the store, and misjudging that can cause others to fall or be knocked off balance against a shelf when you bump into them.

More than once, I've been thankful I had my walking cane with me, so that I could stick it out to the side for added balance as such a person bowled her way past me to the shelf. Without the cane, I'd have been on the ground. On once such occasion, what was worse, is that the culprit acted as if I were invisible. She uttered not so much as an "excuse me, please," or "could you please hand me one of those..," and not even an apology. In her case, I'd say she was just a generally rude person, and would have been just as rude if she'd only weighed 90 pounds...but at 90 pounds, she'd not have nearly knocked me off my feet.

Grease and Oil Make Machinery Run Well

Society at large is social machinery; everyone has their roles, and interaction with the other parts of this machine (i.e., other people), require the same lubrication as any piece of machinery.

The difference is, society is a living, breathing machine, and all of its parts have self-awareness. Manners are the grease and oil that helps this big societal machine run smoothly.

Thank you for reading.


Submit a Comment
  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, daisynicolas,

    It is true, manners have become so "odd" that people exhibiting proper manners do get funny looks. But, the karma part is that it will come around to your favor, and it's the ones with no manners that will catch it in the seat of the pants when Karma comes calling.

    If it's the right thing to do, then do it...nevermind the odd person at a time, it can be changed.

    Thank you for your comment.

  • daisynicolas profile image


    7 years ago from Alaska

    Bad manners have become commonplace that meeting someone with it, makes one stop, and elicit "weird" karma.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, thoughtforce,

    Thanks very much for your input to the discussion. You are right about people failing to live in the moment, as it were--too focused on what's next. As my husband puts it, "We've created a society we can't live in." (sic)

    Thanks much for the votes and the share!

  • thougtforce profile image

    Christina Lornemark 

    7 years ago from Sweden

    The selfish and self-absorbed people is the thing I dislike the most and as you say it is increasing in our society. Maybe it is because everyone always are in a hurry, and we seem to be running so fast that we have forgotten how to live in a society! Everyone is full occupied with the next thing on the agenda, and have no time for the present. This article is very interesting and it is important that we think more about manners. Great advice to stay at home instead of travel to a country where you don't like the culture! Voted up, useful, interesting and shared!


  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, barbergirl!

    Thanks for your input. I know what you mean...people tend to be especially rude in places that are supposed to be about having a good time! It must be the perceived anonymity factor: 'never going to see these people again, so who cares?' It is maddening.

    I swear, the next time that happens to me in the store, I'm taking a stage fall (which I can do convincingly--my screen name is my improv comedy stage name), and I'm going down to scare the bejeezus out of them and teach them a lesson!

    As for your husband--rent a walker or one of those electric carts. I know, from a late friend of mine, that people with such appliances get escorted to the fronts of the lines for sit-down rides (at Disney, anyway). ;-)

  • barbergirl28 profile image

    Stacy Harris 

    7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

    What a great hub... I truly think that everyone needs to read this as in it would be a great way for us to freshen up the grease in our thick-headed skulls! I would hope that others would think that I, as well as my kids, are pretty well-mannered at most times. Not saying there isn't the occasional slip-up, however some of the situations you have described I have seen so many times happen to other people. Although I have to say, the Happiest Place in the World, is also the rudest place in the world. My husband has bad knees and it never fails - everytime we have gone to Disney, somebody has almost taken him out. Thankfully, he is pushing the stroller for some support. I don't know how he is going to handle it when we no longer need the stoller.

    Great hub!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, "CreateHubpages,"

    Thank you for commenting; I'm glad you found the information useful.

  • CreateHubpages profile image


    7 years ago

    Thank very much for posting this very important information.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thank you very much, prasetio30, for your nice comment. I'm please I was able to provide useful information. Thanks for the vote!

  • prasetio30 profile image


    7 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Very interesting hub. I learn many things about "Manners and Etiquette". As young generations I should care with this and give good example below me. Thank you very much for writing and share with us. Rated up!


  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Peggy W--

    I'm pleased that you found this article worthwhile. I agree that bad manners on the road are an equally irritating and even more dangerous problem.

    Thanks very much for your input and the vote and share!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    7 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Really good article! Bad manners also come to the forefront when people get behind the steering wheel of cars. Not using signals when changing lanes; allowing little space between cars; honking rudely a second after a light changes and so on. An entire hub could be written about that also! Voted useful and up and will share to try and spread the word about the importance of manners.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Sandiaview,

    Thanks very much for your well-thought-out comment. You are so right about everyone thinking and acting as if they are alone in their own private little world. It is a constant refrain of my husband's, as well.

    Unfortunately, I think this attitude comes from the top-down. The populace in general sees government officials and corporate heads acting in greedy, self-serving ways with no concern for others their actions will affect. This is the ONLY place where "trickle-down" seems to actually work--it certainly does NOT work with economics! How to reverse it? I wish I knew, but I cannot think of a legal and socially acceptable means to that end. It is a sad state of affairs.

  • Sandiaview profile image


    7 years ago from New Mexico

    I agree with your article! It's dismaying (at the very least) to see what's happened to manners in our society. It seems as if everyone is in their own world, with no thought or awareness to anyone else. I'm wondering where this attitude comes from and how do we reverse it?


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