Are manners simply dead rituals? Or are we destroying our society by failing to use them?
Manners, politeness, and courtesy exist for a lot of reasons. Trust, respect, dignity, safety, protection, comfort, As society changes sometimes they make less sense, but at some point there was usually a good reason behind why they existed in the first place.
Manners create a protocol for how people interact
Manners provide a basic protocol of interaction from which trust and openness can be built. For instance, introducing a new staff member at work to colleagues. This basic introduction protocol gives a new staff member the view that this workplace has honest and open people. People say “Hi,” and are friendly so they assume it’s a place they should enjoy working.
Manners create an expectation for how people will act
Have you ever walked into a store and encountered a rude staff member? The reason it irks you so much usually isn’t just because they were rude, but because they failed to meet your expectations of how a store staff member should act.
Manners are designed to ease uncomfortable situations
Have you ever bumped into someone and said you were sorry? It’s not that you are saying you are responsible, or you genuinely mean you are apologising. What you are doing is acknowledging that an accident occurred and there was no ill intention behind it.
Manners are designed to acknowledge others
When you open a door for someone you are simply acknowledging their presence and the need for both of you to use the door at the same time. When you nod, smile, or say “Thanks,” you return that acknowledgement. Don’t complicate opening a door with feminism or being a gentlemen, there isn’t any need in today’s society. Its simply a door that needs opening and it’s rude to shut it in someone’s face.
Manners are designed to protect those who are weaker
Have you helped an elderly lady across the road? Checked in on your grandmother from time to time? Made sure there was an adult supervising children in a local park? These manners are basic protection mechanisms for those in society who are less able to protect themselves.
Manners are designed to give everyone a fair go.
Wait your turn in line, don’t interrupt someone who is talking, be a good sportsman. These evolved to give everyone a chance and to give everyone an opportunity to participate in something. They introduce an element of fairness, respect and order instead having an all-out free for all.
Manners reduce conflict
Think about all the times you have been miffed at someone. Maybe while driving, shopping, or walking in a crowded place, catching public transport and so on. There is a good chance you were miffed because the person annoying you wasn’t using basic good manners. You may have even let out a deep breath or said something to them. Manners reduce the rub between people much like traffic lights reduce accidents at crossings.
Manners afford strangers a basic level of dignity and respect
Whether they deserve it or not, (and you may not know) would you rather be rude or respectful? The response from people treated with a little respect and dignity is far more likely to be positive than if you treated them rudely.
— Susie Wilson