In our frantic and often self-obsessed 21st century existence, it’s easy to think that good old-fashioned manners and politeness have been consigned to history.
The concept of courtesy and behaving considerately isn’t given much attention in a world where it’s seemingly all about ‘me’ and the race to the top.
Polite people are, it seems, becoming an endangered species!
Yet, somewhat ironically, we do still tend to judge people on how polite (or not) they are to us.
An encounter where we feel we’ve been spoken to rudely or treated discourteously can annoy us for some time.
It can even go so far as affecting our mood and the way we handle other situations as our day or week unfolds.
The fact that these experiences resonate so deeply suggests that ‘soft’ social skills such as politeness are actually a fundamental human need.
And it turns out they are…
It’s all rooted in human evolution.
There’s a good reason that these rules of social interaction evolved over the countless millennia of human existence.
They create a cooperative, cohesive social group and contribute to the survival of the species.
All cultures, no matter how remote and different to our own, have manners which are defined by their individual traditions. The rules may be different, but there’ll be a strict code of behavior in place.
That says a lot about how necessary these values must be in maintaining society, doesn’t it?
So, the fact is whether or not you agree with the concept of ‘manners’ on a superficial level, you’ll be judged on them and you’ll judge others in the same way.
Like it or not, our social skills, or lack of them, are a big part of who we are and how we are seen by others.
Different strokes for different folks.
Whilst we’re on the subject of judging, a word of caution about making assumptions and labelling a person’s behavior as rude or discourteous…
Don’t automatically assume, in these globally interconnected times, that others have the same cultural norms as you.
What you consider polite, others may find confusing, upsetting, or even offensive.
Here’s a personal example: I’m a teacher of English to speakers of other languages who’s done her time in the multicultural classroom.
I’ve learned that our cultural obsession with saying ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘sorry’ (often when we don’t mean it at all), is viewed by those from overseas with opinions ranging from disbelief to irritation.
And yet their failure to use these ‘magic’ words when speaking English is seen as rude.
So, the polite thing to do when it comes to intercultural exchanges is not to apply our own politeness criteria to people from different cultures.
The matter of good manners ultimately boils down to showing mutual respect.
If you don’t respect others, then holding a door open for someone or remembering names is just window dressing and means nothing. You’ll still be seen as impolite.
The loudmouth who constantly pushes their often controversial views on every conversation is never popular.
These opinions are delivered whether they’ve been asked for or not – usually not.
The mark of a polite and courteous individual is to hold back from forcing their own thoughts onto others.
Yes, of course, if asked they will share their opinions, but they’ll be open to different ideas and to having a balanced discussion.
They’ll never insist that you convert to their way of thinking.
5. They don’t brush over important issues
Some people will do anything to avoid the awkwardness of a conversation with someone who’s recently bereaved or whose relationship just imploded or who has endured some other personal trauma.
The well-mannered, on the other hand, will find a way to raise the matter sensitively as soon as possible to avoid prolonging the embarrassment or upset as the unfortunate sufferer waits anxiously for the thorny issue or tragic event to be raised.
It’s never an easy thing to do, but it’s so much kinder to acknowledge upset in the lives of our friends or colleagues rather than ignore it. Polite people respect this.
6. They always express their thanks
Showing sincere appreciation for a gesture, a gift, or hospitality is at the top of the list of things that polite folk do.
You won’t find them firing off a one-liner by email or text to say ‘thanks.’
Neither will they make the assumption that their friend or relation will just ‘know’ that they had a good time or appreciated the gift because they muttered a few words to that effect.
Working as a freelance copywriter, Juliana is following a path well-trodden by her family, who seem to have 'wordsmithing' in their DNA. She'll turn her quill to anything from lifestyle and wellness articles to blog posts and SEO articles. All this is underpinned by a lifetime of travel, cultural exchange and her love of the richly expressive medium of the English language.