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Civility - Are "Manners" Overrated?

Joined: 1/2/2012
Posts: 118
The psychology behind this question is far too complicated to thoroughly explore in the word requirement. Age, level of intelligence, home environment, socio/economic background, ethnicity, geography and religion are just a few of the factors that contribute to an individual's perception of manners.

What my parents taught and expected of me in terms of manners is entirely different from what I taught and expect of my child. I was born into a southern household in the late 1950's. Women were expected to "present" their children with clean clothes, polished shoes, combed hair, good table manners and a respect for adults that would rival that of a military barracks - "yes sir, no sir." Children were "talked to," but rarely "engaged" in meaningful conversation. Any behavior deemed disrespectful by an adult resulted in punishment. I was programmed to listen quietly and that is exactly what I did.

It was not until early adulthood that I realized that a big part of my personality had been hijacked by the severity of those childhood lessons and that being bound up with too many manners can be just as destructive as having none. Exposure to a different culture at the age of twenty-four was the nexus of my awakening and I began to realize that adults do not have all the answers and that not everyone deserves respect. Slowly, I began to question, challenge and examine everything around me. My new-found tenacity was acknowledged with answers, information and genuine interest instead of "do as I say." My confidence grew in leaps and bounds and I found my voice. I did not forget how to behave with civility, but I was no longer "Shrinking Violet," the nice girl with impeccable manners.

When my daughter was born, I vowed to raise her into a strong, confident woman. That does not mean that I taught her to be outspoken, brash and devoid of manners. I taught her to value good character, to be kind, fair and tolerant and to recognize those who are not. I taught her to be curious, to never take "just because" for an answer, to protect those who are weak, to know when to walk away from an argument, and to know when to ask for help.

She talks fast, uses foul language and occasionally cuts people off in traffic. She also has a soft spot for animals and old people. She holds open doors, says please and thank you, keeps her napkin on her lap, and chews her food quietly. In other words, she displays manners commiserate to the situation without sacrificing who she really is or pretending to be someone she is not.

Most behaviors are dictated by social norms and displaying good manners, or bad, is clearly one of them. Having the wherewithal to recognize social cues and norms and apply them in any given situation comes from within. I don't think that what we have in our present day society is a decline in manners, so much as it is in a decline in character and that cannot be taught in an etiquette class.
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Comment by warren

Joined: 6/22/2011
Posts: 293
Beautiful, just beautiful! And I'm still searching for my word. (I keep coming up with Darn!) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Suzanne, to you and your family!
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 5:20:51 PM
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Comment by Suzanne

Joined: 1/2/2012
Posts: 118
Thanks Warren, and warm regards to you as well.
Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013 10:49:22 PM
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