Good manners are a soft skill in decline
Recent trends seem to be suggesting a decline in good manners. Defined as polite social behaviour they are actually more than that. Good manners are a soft skill and reflect respect, courtesy, and consideration for others.
Good manners are a soft skill being eroded
Importantly good manners are a soft skill which seem to be getting overlooked and even some would say becoming a thing of the past. In the U.S. according to recent research of 1000 adults, by the Associated Press and NORC, a research organization affiliated with the University of Chicago, found many Americans believe that manners have been slowly declining for several decades now. 74% of the survey referenced, coarse language and lack of general politesse as issues. Queue jumping and pushing on public transport are equally commonplace and perceived negatively.
It is hard to know what, if anything, can be done to reverse or compensate for this trend. One argument is that our understanding of what makes good manners is changing over time. Inconsiderate cell phone usage in restaurants was cited as an irritant, but indicated generational differences with respondents over 60 feeling more strongly than younger participants. We have also seen shifts in male-female relationships where old-style chivalry towards women is no longer expected. Nor is there a gender difference on coarse langauge, with swearing among women identified as an equal opportunity characteristic and widely accepted in ways that it previously wasn't.
In more general terms the comments section on newspaper articles or posts are astonishing in their crudeness and have been for some time with young and older, male and female posters being equally obnoxious.
Soft skill teaching
Fred Astaire famously said:
“The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.”
Recent political campaigns have seen a complete shift in some quarters with the routine omission of general courtesy and respect, which suggest that the veneer of civility on which our societies are based, is much thinner than we believed and maybe even eroding rapidly. The emergence of whole demographics unschooled in the art of successful interpersonal skills is becoming visible. The value of social skills and old school politeness are not acknowledged to the same degree in our device addicted societies. Young people it seems are missing a vital part in their education. They are not born rude. This means that our children are not being correctly educated at home, schools, or in our wider cultures. [Tweet "The recognition that good manners are a soft skill is frequently overlooked."]
Poor role models
So when we see the U.S. President elect making fun of a disabled person, commenting on women’s menstrual cycles, advocating grabbing women by the p$ssy, as well as bad mouthing whole races, it must be hard for parents to reinforce even basic etiquette. The every day please, thank you, and excuse me will slide by the wayside. But who is responsible for guaranteeing the teaching of these vital soft skills?
In the wake of this general trend, it’s therefore not surprising that there have been spikes in sexual harassment as well as race and hate crimes in our schools. Post Trump bullying in schools in the US is reported to have taken on a more sinister tone. A report from the UK Parliament in September 2016 on sexual harassment in schools showed some disturbing results
- 59% of girls and young women aged 13–21 said in 2014 that they had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year.
- Almost a third (29%) of 16–18-year-old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school.
Good manners are a soft skill
The World Economic Forum identified soft skills as the primary work place skills required in the near future. Many recruiters are experiencing a reduction in soft skills from younger candidates. This surely has to include good manners. One HR professional Matt Buckland enjoyed the karma of welcoming for interview a rude commuter who had told him that very morning to f$ck off on a London Tube. This made news headlines.
Robert A Heinlein the American science fiction writer, regarded good manners as the cement that holds our societies together. [Tweet "They are more than just superficial politesse."]
“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”
Somehow at the most basic levels in schools, universities and organisations we are going to have to make a concerted effort to affirm our values and place basic soft skills, including good manners where they need to be. At the center of what we are about and who we are.
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