Of all the lessons that I learned as a child, the ones that have stuck with me most involved the importance of being courteous and respectful in life. Things like sharing, thinking of others, treating elders with respect and expressing my appreciation were well taught to me by my mom and dad (and a handful of great elementary school teachers) and are still so important to me today.
I make an effort in my day to day to keep up with these conventions despite the decline of these activities in the general public. Is it the “What’s in it for me?” culture that has affected the behaviour of so many people out there? Or have people just forgotten their manners?
It’s funny what such small gestures can do for your interactions with the general public. Holding a door open for someone approaching behind you is considerate. It tells people that you care about others, even if you don’t know them and never see them again. Expressing a ‘Please’ or a ‘Thank You’ or a ‘You’re Welcome’ is a small way to show appreciation. It doesn’t cost you anything and it makes others feel good.
In today’s society where we bury our heads in our smartphones, ignore strangers and think of ourselves before thinking of others, I propose that we try revisiting the basics. Make someone’s day and smile at a stranger, give up your seat on the bus for someone who needs it, let a car merge ahead of you instead of pretending you don’t see their turn signal, keep your eyes open for those around you and think of others before yourself.
Recently, I have been re-reading a wonderfully outdated etiquette book from 1970.
The rules of etiquette in this book cover every situation that a young lady in the early seventies might come across from ridding yourself of annoying habits (which include but are not limited to Poking and Nudging Friends, Chewing Gum, Moistening your Lips and Giggling) to how to behave yourself with the people in your community (there is a whole section on ‘Winning over Salespeople’). The section on dating is a riot to read: “When you look for a job, find one where you can make money and dates. Apply at shops that sell things boys buy – sports or photographic equipment, records, clothes.”
Despite all of the laughable and sometimes horrifying advice (“Casually take off your glasses before the end of your date; You don’t need to see to kiss!”), there are so many grains of truth in this book about the treatment of other people. I recommend finding a copy (or something similar) at your local used book store or the library.
Oh, and while you’re here… Thank you for reading, Please come again, You’re Welcome to comment and let me know how you bring courtesy to those with whom you interact.