by David Allison
When I think back to being a child and how manners were completely drummed into us, I wonder if now I’m older, has the concept of decent manners worn off quicker than cheap fake tan in a rain storm?
If we didn’t use the ‘magic’ words as children we were consequently told off and given ‘the look’ by either or both Mum and Dad not to mention a good old clip round the ear. We inherited good manners by default, education and being lead by example. I for one am glad to say that I did.
Who says we can’t discipline children? Is it really such a challenge to instil into them the basics? I’m sure they’d soon be criticized if they ate off the floor or peed in the sink; so why not express the importance of please, thank you and peeing in the correct place?
When we were younger we were actively encouraged to use manners which incorporated holding doors open for people (and yes, ladies in particular) allowing people to go ahead of you in a queue if they only had one item or saying hello to your neighbours.
What I notice more and more is that the concept of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ seems to have dissipated and it now becomes a rarer occasion when they are used.
I remember a few years ago coming out of the John Lewis store on Oxford Street London, as I walked in two well to-do ladies were walking out; the manners I learned, namely from my Mother took over as subconsciously as they always had. I stood there, held the door open and allowed them to pass. What followed was quite simply….. nothing; they breezed through the door with over-sized egos and shoulder pads reminiscent of Dynasty on acid.That was it. Starkly absent was a smile, a passing glance or a thank you. I wish their manners had been as obvious as their Chanel or face lifts.
I have friends from many cultures and backgrounds and I am au fait with how some of their differences affect how they meet and greet people. For example, I have noticed that the more direct American will not normally say please, but will almost always say thank you. By the very nature of their personalities, a ‘please’ isn’t usually forthcoming; but that doesn’t mean they don’t have manners. Americans tend to use Sir and Ma’am more than the British ever do unless, of course, we are addressing a member of the Royal Family. I am not stating that your average counterpart from across the pond also doesn’t need some lessons in the correct etiquette; all I have to do is mention cell phones and their incessant need to shout into them for all to hear to stir up some other feelings of annoyance.
Usually when I’m faced with anyone screeching into their phone, I usually want to do a ‘Naomi’ and launch it somewhere in their direction. But being British, I do what most Brits are good at; huffing, puffing and tutting…. and maybe a filthy look thrown in at a discount price.
Growing up in the North East of England where I tend to, albeit with a fondness for home, class the locals as more friendly. They seem more approachable and are people who will generally chat to you in shops, petrol stations and cafe’s; I wonder if we were spoiled and drenched in good manners as well as the ability to fry almost anything.
In the south, namely London where I live, it appears to me to be the city culture where ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ have completely gone out of the window, even by those that work in the customer service industry. I am appalled the amount of times I go into stores, banks and other customer facing industries where customer service training clearly lacks in the basics. I wonder sometimes how people get employment in a customer facing role. Is it a necessity for people vs people skills?
When I have had cause to complain about poor service; which for me, usually stems from the initial lack of basic manners; it is the usual standard of apology, which to most isn’t worth the paper, or these days, email it’s written on. I usually translate “we’ll take your comments on board” to ‘delete’.
In a time where many people are career driven and more direct, I would have hoped for more drive on the use of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. As a result of making them a staple of their repertoire one would hope they spill over into day-to-day life; but alas no, in their driven and direct lifestyles it seems to be an excuse to have these skills lacking for fear of appearing ‘weak’ or ‘soft’.
Being direct and forthright allegedly shows strength of character. That may very well be the case, but manners show thought, care and attention to detail. As someone once said to me “A please and thank you never went amiss” unfortunately these days, I think they belong on a ‘missing’ poster or on the side of a milk carton.
Food for thought….. the next time someone doesn’t say those magic words, simply say with all sincerity “you’re welcome” in the hope that you can gently reeducate or shock their manners back into action. Of course if it’s a close friend or relative, just tell them, it’s so much easier.
I saw a great quote the other day “You are the result of four billion years of evolutionary success…..fucking act like it”. Not everyone’s cup of tea or choice of the English language, but it makes you think all the same.
I can’t finish this post without thanking you for reading, and asking, please keep visiting back for future posts.