All right, hands up if you’ve experienced a display of bad manners recently? Seems we can all recall a time or two (Or maybe three?) when somebody’s bad manners were so uncivil, we were gob smacked by their actions.
Manners matter. No matter how you slice it, “manners [as we happen to say in our home] are never out of style”. They have currency and when respectfully applied, they help us negotiate through our social landscape.
With good manners, doors open. People are more likely to smile and opportunities present that wouldn’t otherwise. Whereas, bad manners on the other hand, guarantee a grimace, social resistance, and an increase in unsuccessful events.
This much is obvious enough. But what about the subtleties of manners? For starters, manners are by no means as universal as they seem. Terms like “please” and “thank you” (as I’ve alluded to previously) don’t even exist as concepts let alone words in some other cultures. Nor do, “Do you mind getting out of the way” I’m trying to watch this TV show!” or, “Could you please stop talking on your phone? You should be repeating your wedding vows”.
Hand gestures that convey friendship in one country can be downright offensive in another and can even land you in jail. While, merely keeping your hands in your pockets is liable to annoy at least someone. Manners are complicated.
Should you bring flowers when you visit new friends? If so, which ones are the right ones? Given some flowers signify death, it’s worth double-checking. Just as bringing blooms that imply romantic intentions could also be awkward (especially if you’re trying to seal a business deal).
When it comes to manners, what you say, wear, and how you move all matter. But there’s no denying the obvious signs of indifference, contempt, and outright hostility take precedence. You don’t need to be an emotional Einstein to recognize someone spitting fury right in your face isn’t the type to invite to your next birthday. Such strong manners violations trigger an immediate response. In these situations, it’s easy to get antagonistic too. Yet, it’s the measure of us to choose more considered ways to handle people like that, regardless how rude they end up being.
You might as well accept the fact that you will encounter ill-mannered people in the future too. It’s inevitable. So why not prepare now so you will be one step ahead? Consider what you might say and do in such unpleasant situations. Having a strategy definitely helps, especially if it works under pressure. As a result, you will feel less at sea and more able to keep being yourself.
Examples of approaches are numerous. But here’s just a few:
- Turning the other cheek by saying or doing nothing
- Steering the situation back with directive questions
- Agreeing with the person and thanking them for sharing their opinions (this last approach might seem ridiculous until you consider how hard it is for people to argue with someone who agrees with them)!
- Restating their complaint and recognizing their feelings (“You are furious that I stepped on your toe and now you want to kill me. I can understand you feeling that way…”)
But perhaps you’ll find a few better ways of handling bad manners to suit your situation.
Basically, somebody throwing a bad-mannered tantrum needn’t trigger one in us too. We can choose if we prepare to at least be true to ourselves. The key is to remember who you are at all times, and to remember that what you say and do matters. Manners can be exquisitely demonstrated and impressively defined. Yet if they aren’t genuine, they can intensify negative sentiments. So genialness is crucially important.
You can make mistakes and misunderstand manners in a thousand ways. But if you convey yourself with sincerity and care, reasonable people will accept you anyway. That’s the take home message about manners. They work. But it’s kindness and thoughtfulness that make them shine.
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