Where have all the manners gone?

Shelley Blundell

When I was a child, having manners was as important in my household as breathing was for survival. No matter what I was asking for, and no matter who I was asking, “please” and “thank you” were an essential part of the request, or it went un-granted.

Now, being a child at the time, the whole notion seemed somewhat nonsensical to me (I mean, when you’re a kid, you know everything, right?) but, as it became apparent that I couldn’t so much as go to the bathroom without uttering these few words, it became easier to make manners a habit than fight the system.

Now I am older, I understand why my parents were so strict in enforcing manners in our house: It’s good manners to have good manners, see?

Consider this: You work a McJob, you’ve had a long and tiring day and your manager (who is three years younger than you) has just screamed at you for the second time that day because “like, the fry tray is like empty, yo.” A customer comes in and after taking his order and promptly delivering it, he says “Thank you very much, sir/madam, and you have a great day.” Don’t you feel a bit better? Maybe not much, but it’s a start.

Or let’s say you’re feeling a little down in the dumps. You’ve been walking all day and your feet are killing you, and just as you’re about to open the door to your office building someone runs ahead of you and does it for you. With a smile.

These examples may seem a little dopey, but consider how much small acts of kindness mean to us on a day-to-day basis. But do we even notice their absence any more?

When last did you hear a child say “please” or “thank you” for anything? At that, when last did you say “please” or “thank you” for anything? The words “gimme” or “let me have” have become so commonplace that I think people mistake them for manners now. But they’re not, and they never will be, because they are just damn rude.

What’s more, manners are becoming a big deal in the workplace. According to a survey done by TMP Worldwide, an international recruitment agency, manners in the workplace have shown a marked deterioration over the last five years. A survey of 231 people in the network showed 57 percent of respondents felt manners weren’t as good as they used to be and, even more shocking, 98 percent felt bad manners negatively affected staff morale.

While manners and common courtesy may seem like no big deal to some, I assure you, they are indeed. Not only that, good manners are a sign of respect and you never know who that positive perception affects, especially among fellow students, co-workers and administration.

I know it seems like a lot to ask, but do me a favor. Next time you order food, say “please” and “thank you” to your server or cashier. Better yet, why not hold the door open for someone? The pleasant surprise most people feel will astound you.

With this in mind, I leave you with these words of wisdom from the quintessential “Miss Manners,” Emily Post:

“Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.”

Shelley Blundell is a senior magazine journalism and history major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].