Courtesy and Good Manners
Manners and courtesy are an aspect of modern societies that are experiencing serious deterioration and we are doing nothing to remedy this problem; traditional values in social relations are being erased by new and so-called “modern” behaviors that are in reality inconsiderate and often coarse. Bad manners have thus been converted into a growing problem that affects all levels of society: family, work, friendships, business, and politics, not to mention their negative effect on romantic and personal relationships in general.
Bad manners and discourteousness increase when we leave behind basic standards of polite behavior in favor of incorrect, rude and disrespectful treatment. These bad habits that result in rude conduct tend to be worse in areas with socialist tendencies, but are not limited to such environments, and represent a worrisome societal model devalues all of us: the elderly, women, as well as those who are considered different because of race or physical aspects, etc. The absence of courtesy and good manners creates societies where individuals lack personal dignity and subjects them to an environment where rude behavior and inappropriate conduct are considered “normal”.
In today’s societies it’s common for people to regard courtesy as old-fashioned and out-of-date, so that increasingly more individuals behave rudely, making interaction difficult and creating an unpleasant social environment that makes people want to run and hide.
In today’s society, bad manners can be observed anytime, anywhere. This sort of discourtesy is ever present and examples are too numerous to count or even mention: the disrespectful treatment of elderly people; invitations that aren’t responded to in any way; the lack of commitment to any event, job, or person; confirming attendance with no intention of attending; the strange disappearance of “please” and “thank you” from most people’s vocabulary; line-jumping; serial texters and cell-phone addicts who talk on the phone, as well as read and send text messages instead of paying attention to physically present persons; the friend or colleague who never offers to pick up the bill at lunch, or even pay their own way; repulsive children (the spitting image of their parents) who think that the world rotates around them and behave obnoxiously because of it, etc, etc.
We tend to blame the younger generation for these rude behaviors, but the truth is that the situation is degrading all ages and levels of society. So much that now it is commonplace to see couples openly insulting each other in public and treating each other with absolutely no common courtesy (a sliding scale which leads directly to physical and verbal abuse). Just as unfortunate, and equally common is disrespectful and dishonest treatment between colleagues in the business world, who fall back on tricks, half-truths and crude vocabulary to make ends meet. And then, to add insult to injury, these issues are left to be resolved by enormous and costly governmental programs, that can do nothing when facing this irreversible deterioration of personal relationships without the involvement and commitment of everyday people in their everyday lives.
The lessons of courtesy and good manners taught to us by our parents at home, or perhaps by teachers at school, too often forgotten, are increasingly absent in the mainstream education of children. This phenomenon is a byproduct of an absurd social model that certain politicians attempt to impose where manners must be re-taught to adults by companies that offer courses in protocol and courtesy to professionals in business environments. But we mustn’t be fooled, to triumph in this world, we have to make good use of good manners and courtesy from the beginning, it won’t do to call a possible partner “dude,” and say “Hey, babe” to the future mother of your children or “No way will I take that, you jerk” to your friend.
The deterioration of verbal communication is an evident and alarming symptom of the absence of good manners. The most elemental level of any society is personal relationships. Positive relationships are built on courtesy and a society that has no regard for polite speech is on the path to swift decline. Our tolerance for rude and discourteous behavior seems to infinite and no relationship is immune to the effects of disrespectful conduct and coarse treatment in today’s society. Whether we’re dealing with insults from other drivers, curt and disagreeable treatment customer service or the rude and aggressive attitudes of people on the street or at work. All of these behaviors contribute to the lowering of our standards for polite behavior, standards that concern and affect all of us, and we tolerate or justify this inappropriate and unacceptable behavior because we’re lazy and apathetic and used to a general dynamic of bad manners.
So while manners may seem unimportant, they’re really vital, because discourteous and vulgar conduct only tarnish the dignity of people and the society that allow them. Good manners, like any learned behavior, require practice and effort. Certain social and governmental models that some central powers favor would have people believe that effort and hard work aren’t necessary for success and material comforts. A clear example of this kind of political culture and its negative effect on common courtesy and personal relationships is Spain, where the socialist government does nothing to foment respect, courtesy or good manners, strengthening models that promote a system of entitlement. This kind of government promises certain citizens the world for their votes, and create generations of citizens that think they have a right to “free” healthcare, a certain type of housing, and no obligation to work or make any effort for any of these things without any consideration for the citizens that work and pay for these “free” programs. In this type of system overachievers are sometimes looked down upon as show-offs and formal manners and courteous treatment are often considered unnecessary artifices.
Modern society, or those societies that really want to be modern, must promote and practice good manners, in such a way that these things become the norm, and not isolated cases of exemplary citizens, the way they are now.
Furthermore, courtesy, respect and manners are essential for success in the workplace. In times of economic crisis, this is an indispensable requirement for obtaining and maintaining employment. It’s time for a return to common courtesy and polite speech; time for the reappearance of “good morning” , “how are you?” and “please” and “thank you.” Giving up your seat to an older person or a pregnant women shouldn’t be the exception, but should be the rule. Modern tendencies towards friendlier business relationships, as well as increased openness, and warmth in relationships in general are fine and good, but these new tendencies shouldn’t supersede, but rather should accompany traditions of courtesy and good manners in all interactions be they at work or at home.
Certain bad-mannered and ungrateful citizens, are walking advertisements for the failings of society in this area. In a digitalized society, rude behavior is sometimes facilitated by new technologies. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the inappropriate use of cell phones by individuals who pay more attention to text messages and phone calls than the person or task at hand.
The unpopular truth is that some basic rules of social and familial behavior are essential, trying to get rid of them, or avoid them could convert current societies into a veritable social jungle. Or worse. Because even animals seem to have certain standards for adequate behavior and conduct.
Very often we focus on world issues and so-called “bigger” problems as if other, “smaller” concerns make no difference, when in fact, important change can begin with something as simple as being friendly and showing off good manners. All of us can contribute to the improvement of society. But good intentions aren’t enough, action is required. Educating and training children in manners and protocol promises improvement in today’s society as well as in the future. Educating isn’t just the job of teachers, but of each and every one of us; by becoming positive examples for others, we show children how to live together, how to be courteous and how to conduct themselves in their daily lives. Vulgarity and rudeness must be pulled out at their roots, lest we fall victim to the inappropriate conduct in speech and dress that has become prevalent in other countries.
The United States has always been an exceptional society, even when it comes to good manners and we mustn’t permit other societies’ bad examples (like that of Spain, where bad habits and discourtesy seem to have extended to all social sectors) influence the long-lived model of courteous behavior and conduct in America. A long tradition of authority and discipline, in society and family in American culture permits the strengthening of good manners without the use of force, with firmness, always favoring respect, dignity, and the integrity of its people. Good manners and courtesy are keys to not only to successful interactions with our fellow human beings, but to economic and political success as well for America, Americans, and the rest of the world.