What happened to good manners? 30



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The baby boomer generation, perhaps more than any other, has seen an incredible change in society and the way we live our lives. Some changes have been fantastic, technology, for example, has revolutionised the way we live! But others haven’t been quite so positive. One of the sad changes is the demise of basic manners and the art of “being polite”.

So what happened to our manners? As our lives have gotten busier, we’ve declared ourselves in too much of a rush to take a few seconds or minutes out to do something kind. Perhaps it’s that technology has in fact become our primary mode of communication and the human interaction – which manners are a large part of – has become redundant and therefore so have our manners.

Or perhaps it comes down to education and society as a whole; we’re focussed on casual lifestyles with less formal occasions. We’re focused on teaching our children how to be smart and intelligent but not the great pillars of society as we once focussed on with equal importance.

Whatever the reason is, I believe it’s quite sad. So today let’s reflect on a well-mannered time – these are ten things that I wish people still did regularly today. Read through the list of proper actions that we once treasured and let us know, which would you like to see come back again?

Writing and sending “thank you” notes
There was something so special about receiving and sending thank you notes. It was a way of showing someone that you truly do appreciate what they’ve done for you and with just a few moments for each letter, it was a few moments out of your day that contributed to someone else’s happiness. Saying “thank you” is still around but showing thanks is long gone.

Actual RSVPs
Remember when people gave actual RSVP’s about their attendance to events and functions and hosts didn’t have to assume, follow up or cater for a larger number, just in case!

Baking for people
When a friend moved house, when they were sick, when they were looking after other people or when they simply had something to celebrate, we once would cook a meal, some muffins or a cake and deliver them in person. It was a way of showing that we cared and was a simple, cost effective way of simply doing something nice for someone else.

Holding the door open
No matter where you were, if you were walking through a door, the person in front of you would hold it open or at least hand it over to you so there were no doors slammed in faces. These days, people seem to be on a mission to get to places quickly and very rarely do this.

Taking your hat off indoors
It was the polite thing to do – you wore hats outside, for sun protection! And if you were inside, unless you were at a wedding or a funeral, the hats were always taken off and placed down. We’re not sure why or where this tradition went, but it doesn’t happen anymore!

Men opening car doors
Men are not taught to look after women as they once did and this means that they don’t often jump ahead to open a car door for someone. Some of this coincides with the fact that women began to object to this behaviour as part of the feminist stance that women are equal to men and deserve no special treatment. Regardless, it was a polite thing to do and respected women as ladies.

Keeping the elbows off the table
The entire suite of manners at the dinner table that we once saw every day has diminished to very little. It is rare to walk into a restaurant and see a family use their cutlery correctly, eat their food with proper etiquette and keep their elbows off the table. My father would always say, “no uncooked joints on the table!” and that seems to be a lesson somewhat lost.

Keeping money and politics out of conversations
These were two topics off limits however now some wear their opinions and financial position as a badge of honour and use them to distinguish between the company they’d like to keep and the company they aren’t fond of.

Standing up when people enter the room
This was a favourite of mine, it was always a pleasant way of greeting people and it was a sign of respect, ultimately the thing we’ve lost most. Sadly, very few people are taught to do this now and it’s become a thing of the past.

Tell us, what manners and polite things would you like to see come back again? What are your memories of growing up and being taught the “polite” way of doing things?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. My pet aversion is when there is a function, the cakes and biscuits have been laid out for morning tea. Women go up to help themselves and “finger” all of the food on display. We were taught as children “what you touch, you ust take and consume” -DO NOT TOUCH WHAT YOU ARENOT GOING TO TAKE!

    2 REPLY
    • Yes true Lynne, it’s disgusting. I can’t stand it when children do it either. It’s a very rare thing these day’s
      to see a mother tell their child not to touch the food.
      I think it’s so unfortunate that we live in a society now where manners don’t seem to rate.

    • It’s also why there are frequent serious outbreaks of intestinal diseases e.g. on cruise ships – especially if people don’t wash their hands properly after toileting.

      I have reported such behaviour to staff at smorgasbord functions. Most are grateful and will remove the contaminated items (they don’t want to be sued if there is an outbreak of food poisoning).

      One large self-serve restaurant chain was notorious for tummy upsets due to small un-controlled kids sticking fingers into food then licking after each. They (partly) solved the problem by making the displays higher.

  2. When eating, putting knives and forks down instead of holding them up like some attaching weapon and putting them together on the plate when you have finished.

    2 REPLY
    • Yes, Cheryl, & wait-staff who want to take away a plate which has fork tines turned down ie meal NOT yet finished! Obviously don’t get taught that at Hospitality School!

    • Add to that – starting to eat before everyone has been served and reaching across others to grab something (I am often tempted to “accidentally” get the offending hand or arm with my fork).

  3. Strangers expecting to use my Christian name without invitation.

    2 REPLY
    • especially YOUNG bank employees who address you using your Christian name as a matter of course!

      1 REPLY
      • Completely agree with Donald Daniels on this point. Ditto for anyone on staff, including the physician, in a medical office or those working inside a hospital. At the very least, permission to address someone by their Christian name should be asked before proceeding to do so.

    • Many businesses have trained staff to use first names to make it “more personal”. It is another “ra ra” idea from the USA.

  4. Not enough smiles, please, thank you in all works of life. I sometime get a startled look when I thank and smile at a shop assistant or thank someone for their service. I would like a smile back.

  5. I’ve noticed that when walking down a crowded footpath, people don’t move over to allow you to pass. Would they mow me down if I didn’t shift?

    3 REPLY
    • The old idea of keeping to the left of the footpath, not blocking entrances, queuing correctly, and making it easier for foot traffic to move quickly and freely has gone out the window. It is an “I, me, and myself” attitude which now prevails. If you are an older female you become invisible – especially to younger people who have not been taught to respect women or their elders.

    • Yes – they will mow you down. It has happened to a number of older or frailer people. Protect yourself with a large trolley, umbrella, large paper cup full of liquid – and a LOUD voice saying “coming through”!

  6. Children chewing with their mouths open. Teenagers not giving up their seats on crowded buses for elderly people.

    1 REPLY
    • I deny this. I take buses used by foreign students. I am white haired and aged. As soon as Chinese girl student sees me coming she stands up and offers me her seat, I cannot say the same for Pakeha youth,

  7. When walking, on a footpath for example, keep to the left. I have more than once blocked a child who was hell bent on barging through me.

    1 REPLY
    • There used to be a white line painted on the pavement down Queen Street to indicate the middle, Surprisingly people kept to the left of it.

  8. What ever happened to to please! And thank you! An example today at my local supermarket ! How are you today the attendant said , he said nothing ,. He didn’t even knowledge the fact she was serving him. If I was a nasty person I would have said something to him. The world owes him everything ,according to him.

    1 REPLY
    • I knew a man who came from Europe. He told me off for saying please and thankyou to shop assistants and other service staff. He said “they are paid to serve you”. I countered by telling him that courtesy, politeness, and acknowledgement was valued by everyone and oiled the wheels of a pleasant society. I also added that he might receive better service or goods if he was pleasant and treated the person as an individual. He eventually came round to my way of thinking and agreed that please and thankyou was not difficult.

  9. I am appalled at people’s table manners – including the chefs on Master Chef. No one knows how to use cutlery anymore. They use a fork like a spoon. It looks so awkward and ugly – like they have never been taught what to do.

    1 REPLY
    • Yes, Terry, people who hold a knife as if it were a pencil!
      Looks appalling, & is stupid to boot!
      Are they going to ‘draw’ their food, or cut it?

      1 REPLY
  10. Asking to leave the table when finished was always used in my childhood. My grandchildren do it and I think it is lovely.

  11. i think it is truly important to give a positive response to any of these acts of consideration given in your direction so we can encourage more nodding smiling and thank you as someone holds the door open or stops to let you cross the street will encourage repeat behaviour but ignoring will make people think why bother.

  12. Good manners’ make for an easy life.
    They’re the ‘oil’ which runs civilisation.
    Without them, there’s chaos.

    I was taught ALL of the above, & then some, & abide by them automatically.

    Nowadays, others’ are surprised when someone else shows ‘good manners’, as it, sadly, is a rarity!

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