Are Manners Going Out The Window?

September 14, 2018

The topic was Modern Manners and I was listening to Loretta Ryan’s Sunday morning show on Brisbane’s 612ABC radio. It inspired me to write this column.  

There appears to be a decline in basic social manners. It makes me wonder if in parallel, our broader community is becoming desensitized and losing its compassion for other human beings. If so why?  

When I broach this topic I feel like I am talking to a brick wall and I have been told I am nagging. I feel that no one seems to care or is it all just too hard in our demanding lives. But there is a powerful voice inside me that tells me not to walk away and pretend all is okay. It’s not okay and it is not difficult.

My parents taught me discipline, caring, manners and having respect. I passed these down to my children and attempt to do the same with my grandchildren. But has it stopped here in today’s society? What are parents doing about this? Are many too frightened to discipline and train their children? How will young children be prepared or know the difference as they develop into adulthood?

It is our duty as a parents and grandparents to teach our children manners and social skills. There will be initial resistance, all part of the normal parenting challenge. Parenting is like a broken record technique, repetition.

It is not about being a popular parent or best mate. We are role models for our child’s social success. Sadly, there are parents who don’t know any better nor seem to care and the consequences become apparent, their children disadvantaged as they mature.

We complain about violence in the world, the pursuit of self, over and above all others, lack of respect, lack of discipline, lack of self-control, lack of human compassion. Is this a result of lack of training in the home or is it the strong peer group influence that can swing the most well intentioned young adult?

It is not even comparable to animals as animal behaviour is about instinctual survival. Humans, I would like to think, are more civilized. We make conscious choices. In the 21st century one hopes our social norms are not all about Darwinian’s raw survival of the species, and not retreating to the caveman days!

A few essential good manners:   

Basic Manners

  • Offer your seat when in public to those in need i.e. pregnant women, elderly people or someone who may appear to be uncomfortable standing.
  • Sneezing/coughing in public, cover your nose and mouth or at least place your face into the inside of your elbow to avoid disgusting droplets catapult metres into our shared atmosphere.
  • Say “excuse me” when trying to get passed someone who is blocking your way.
  • Phones, when in another person’s company, simply do not use them unless you are expecting an important call and you have already highlighted this to them. Put your phone on silent. Do not be at another person’s beck and call to fit in with their expectations.  
  • Knock before entering a room and ask if okay to come in. This also teaches young children to role model the same behaviour at home if the parents demonstrate respect for their children.
  • Hold the door open if someone has their hands full or the door is heavy and difficult to open.
  • Say “please” and “thank you”, and include this when interacting with strangers in public such as ordering food or asking for something.
  • Being respectful is a basic consideration for other people’s feelings, even in alien social circumstances where you may never see them again. A genuine smile never hurts.

Table Manners

  • Why are elbows on the table becoming the norm?  I see so many young and older people lean over their plate, elbows and arms slouched on the table either side of their plate, heads down to almost suck the food off their plate like hogs at a trough. What happened to sitting up straight facing each other and letting your arms do the work.
  • Hats at the dinner table, these should always be removed when eating at a table. The original custom was to demonstrate trust in the king or queen. Today there is no practical reason for men to wear them. It is disrespectful to elders and the person who cooks the meal.
  • Ask to be excused to leave the table and only when everyone has finished eating.
  • Offer to take the plates to the sink when finished.
  • Knife and fork to be held on the handle above the neck. When finished place them face-up, parallel next to each other in the centre of the plate. If you are still eating place the fork face down across the knife in a ^ (an upside down V) position to indicate you haven’t finished. If food remains uneaten on the plate, scrape it neatly to the side.
  • Utilise time to communicate when you sit down as a family to eat, even if only once or twice a week. I have a popular practice with my family and friends at the dinner table by asking “what was the highlight of your day?” It places a positive focus on each individual, we interact and hear each other’s story, including the adults. My grandsons always prompt me when we have the opportunity to sit down to eat together.

For social inclusion I suggest we avoid being discourteous and revisit our manners and etiquette. Ethically they demonstrate humbleness, politeness, respect for self and others. It is not necessarily about what you have achieved to be successful in life nor your status or how good you look. These qualities are insignificant unless you genuinely display good manners. Call me old fashioned.

“Manners are important in today’s society because the basis of modern society is communication and good communication requires manners. They are beneficial to those who display them.”

(Ref: Are Manners Important in Today’s Society? by Titus Wu posted in Moral Philosophy)

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