“Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” ~ Emerson
I’m not sure if this problem has been around forever, if I’m just getting old (“kids these days”), or if parents are not teaching their children how to behave in public, but common courtesy has disappeared. Every once and a while I will encounter well-mannered youngsters, which will produce genuine praise from me, but mostly I run into rude, ambivalent teenagers and, sometimes, older people who should know better.
Then, the thought occurred to me: Maybe they don’t know better. Maybe someone needs to teach these bad-mannered adolescents some common courtesy. I feel like I should take out my dentures (if I had them), and lick my sunken lips right now. But seriously, who wouldn’t want to live in a world where people follow basic, social rules?
My frustration with this problem left me with two choices: Either complain about the degradation of society and become cynical, or write about the common-courtesy behaviors that are missing and hope the word spreads to the teenagers and parents who need the lessons. Please feel free to offer suggestions for the rules, or add your own common-courtesy lesson in the comment section.
In no particular order, here are some common-courtesy rules that are lacking in our society:
If you are waiting for an elevator, it is common courtesy to let people off the elevator before you get on. Pushing your way through as soon as the doors open is rude. Trust me; you will have enough time to get on before the doors close. If you happen to make this mistake, apologize, take a step back, and put your hand across the door, holding it open for the people exiting. They will immediately forgive your insolence and appreciate your courtesy.
Leave It How You Found It
If you are looking for a nice place to sit and enjoy your food, book, lesson, or coffee, you would much rather sit at a clean, orderly table/desk than a dirty one. True? Therefore, after you enjoy a meal, read a book, sit in class, or drink a cup of coffee, pick up your possessions, throw away your trash, clean off the table, and push your chair in. Leave your surroundings the way you found them. Simple, yet rarely seen. It is not another person’s job to clean up after your inconsiderate behavior.
Wait Your Turn, Just Like Everyone Else
If you need to ask a question, order food, go to the bathroom, or whatever your perceived emergency is, and there is a line, wait your turn. It is no one else’s fault but yours if you forgot something or waited until the last minute to go to the bathroom. You do not have the right to cut in front of someone because of your error in judgment.
You Have a Job; Smile.
Whoever you are, wherever you work, be thankful that you have a job. I don’t care if you are working for a fast-food industry or a fortune-500 company; you applied for and got that job. Do it with a smile on your face, and make sure it’s not a creepy one. Okay, a constant smile may not be feasible, but when you greet your customers, a smile is definitely appropriate. Be courteous to those who frequent your place of employment; it is because of them that you have a job. If you are not polite, it will ultimately lead, one way or another, to your unemployment.
Make Choices, Not Judgments
I know you have been taught to make certain choices in your life. You have either followed your parents’ advice or rebelled against them. Either way, they are choices you are making with your life. Good for you; you are living the life you want to live. Let other people make the same choices for their lives. Just because someone looks different, acts different, dresses different, or talks differently from you, it does not give you the right to judge him or her for it. Leave that person alone. You don’t want people to laugh, judge, or berate you for your choices. Don’t treat others that way. “Honor the untold story” as my niece at eight years old said. If she got it at eight, I’m sure all of you can understand that and apply it to your life, whatever your age may be.
At Least Say Excuse Me Before You Push Your Way Through
The culprits of this behavior notoriously can be found at amusement parks and shopping malls. I have three questions for these inconsiderate, impatient individuals: Where on earth are you going? Who do you think you are? and How dare you push strangers out of your way? The solution is simple: Slow down your pace, walk around people, or at least say “excuse me” before you push your way through.
Say Please and Thank You
As simple as it seems, it is rare to hear a please or thank you from people. Why is this one hard? I don’t understand. And, if you can manage those words at appropriate times, try it with a smile, please 🙂
Do Not Interrupt People
I’m not perfect at this, by any means, but at least I know when I’ve accidently interrupted someone and apologize for it. Is it lack of awareness, selfishness, indifference, or an inflated perception of importance that makes people interrupt a conversation or lecture or story? Please wait for an appropriate time to share your thoughts. I don’t care if you have had the exact experience that someone else is talking about; do not interrupt his or her story to say so. Pay attention to the ebb and flow of a conversation; it will tell you when you can add your thoughts. If you never get to contribute to the discussion or you forget what you were going to say, oh well. Life will go on, and people won’t think you’re ridiculous for your inconsiderate interruption.
Do you have anything to add?