Are good manners a thing of the past?

by | Feb 29, 2016

The decline of good manners

Good manners

Is the notion of good manners shifting?

I'm not sure whether good manners are a thing of the past, or the notion of what makes good manners has shifted. Emily Post the 19th century manners and etiquette maven said:

“Good manners reflect something from inside-an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for self.”

At one time good manners were regulated by codes of conduct in society almanacs such as Debretts and even Emily Post's own tomes, aimed at the upper echelons of our communities. Today, as our cultures go global and we assimilate the customs practices and manners of other nationalities, we have seen a profound shift in what was previously considered good manners. [Tweet "Add to this the impact of technology, we now find ourselves with a new set of norms."]

Manners and gender

The advancement of women has added some additional shifts. It's also created a new approach to the old-fashioned notion of chivalry.  Men historically walked on the curb edge of the pavement to stop women's dresses being splashed and to keep their swords free. That is clearly not an issue today, when good manners are more complex and not rooted in gender or deference.

Men are now caught in the trap of "do they or don't they": hold doors open, give up seats and pay bills on dates.  The actress Emma Watson recounted a story of how her date was upset when she offered to pay a restaurant bill. Some women would say that with gender pay gaps at a round 20% that perhaps their share of any bill should be 20% less. Another man mentioned how when he gave his seat up for a woman in a meeting, he was taken to task.

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Jeremy, an international business analyst told me that for men who see masculinity as deeply associated with their roles as "protectors" it can be a very confusing time. "It's not that I see myself as superior, It was the way I was raised.  I'm also 187cm and 88 kilos and opening a heavy door is not a big deal. The way I work around this is to ask a woman if I should get the door for example. Occasionally they say no, the can open it themselves, but rarely. I would also open a door for a guy too. It's not that big a deal for me"

Luella, a real estate broker, says "I would rather open my own doors, pay my own bills and earn the same as the men. Yes there has been a shift in expectations and there's a new dating code.  I would always pay on the second date if  guy paid the first.  If I don't want the second date I would always insist on paying my share. I am happy to open doors for men and women, especially if they are older or have a disability"

So perhaps it's not that good manners are history, but the notion of what it means to have good manners today is changing. Many of the small changes seem to reflect a desire for best practises in public spaces, especially noise pollution. There is clearly a need for etiquette around cell phone usage and eating in public. It would seem that Emily Post's dictum still stands around consideration for others .

Role models

Paul Coelho said

“How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.”

If we are seeing a decline in good manners, perhaps it means that the number of dysfunctional, stressed and unhappy people is increasing. Being kind and considerate is still important. The conduct of behaviour in the U.S elections and in the U.K's Prime Minister's Questions, would indicate a high number of people who don't feel good about themselves.

Perhaps we should wonder whether good manners are never more than a fragile veneer in any era.

Take our survey and let us know which good manners are the most important ones for you.

http://polldaddy.com/poll/9325828/

Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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