I was told when I was growing up that manners are important. Since then I have learned that manners aren’t just important they are vital. Manners are the social equivalent of an adult being house trained, those little things that communicate to the rest of the world that you’ve been civilized.
Manners are unwritten, but the much-discussed code of conduct within a given society. Acceptable manners in Phoenix, Arizona maybe be out of kilter in Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine. Even our common local expression “catawampus” I am sure would be misunderstood. Anyway, manners to me are more like oil, and it is the oil that helps us live and works together without so much friction.
For example, we should possess table manners. These are the little things you need to do or not do when you’re at a dining table. I vividly, and I do mean vividly, recall sitting at a table loaded with Ph.Ds. discussing research matters for a start-up company. It was a lunch gathering at a beautiful restaurant with light green table linen. The discussion was lively and animated and continued as the salads arrived. One of the Ph.Ds. kept talking – while he ate and chewed. He chewed, mouth open, whilst he kept talking. The image was a bit like a talking cement mixer, spewing out bits of leaves as it spun. There were little bits of masticated plant matter all around his plate, green, orange, and red bits of what was once an appetizing salad. The bits of chicken from the main course added an off-white texture to the salad fragments. The light green table cloth kept turning darker and darker, drawing, even more, attention to this person, as it absorbed the liquid from the splattered bits. (eeech – just got a shiver typing this.) I can honestly say I could not remember one word they said. I also know I was not the only one who got the heebie-jeebies from this display. Since that first lunch, they have not been invited back to any of the meetings. Their lack of manners closed a door of opportunity which event the best education could not reopen.
Manner, or guidelines, also possess a form, place and time. For example, thank you cards and birthday cards are handwritten communications that are to be sent. Thank you cards are to be sent within five days of the event requiring the acknowledgment. Birthday cards should be sent, so they arrive just before or on the recipient’s birthday. There are exceptions to these guidelines, but they better be good and very creative.
I have noticed on television news programs that the handsome and comely, despite having no manners, can get away with just about anything. As for us more plain folk, like those who know the proper use of the term “catawampus,” we are all in need of manners. Unlike the handsome and comely, who tell us they have manners, we become even more impressive as we allow others, through our manners, to actually discover our good qualities without the aid of a publicist.
As I am getting further from my days of being a handsome television presence, I continually try to improve my manners, since in time my good manners will be about all I have left.
Some also think that manners are about making sure all of those that are important to your community know that you’re thinking about them and really do care. I tend to agree with this statement.
As a wise ole professor from Chicago said “Uze gotta know da rulez before youz can have da fun of breakin dem,” in translation “You cannot be truly rude until you understand good manners.” Learn your manners, mind your manners, so if you want to be rude, you can do it correctly.
– By L. Burke Files