Are Good Manners Becoming Passe

By:  Columnist Bob Grafe

First Published:  February 18, 2010

When today’s senior citizens were growing up, what was “in” then (especially with respect to manners and good behavior) apparently is “out” now.

Such things as manners and dress in the workplace, general civility in dealing with others, cell phone manners or etiquette, manners to refrain from public vulgarity, and even general respect or manners for and towards one’s God and country certainly have changed for the worse since most of today’s senior citizens were in their youth and young-adulthood.

To experience or to simply observe this general decline in our society, all one has to do is to frequent places where the public gathers en masse.

One is almost guaranteed to observe this decline taking place by simply turning on the television or radio or by visiting large retail or grocery establishments and fast-food restaurants, public schools, hospitals, many government offices, public parks, sporting events, movie theaters and certainly while driving one’s vehicle.

I was in a professional quasi-government office the other day when the receptionist, a very scantly clad near-middle-age woman put me “on hold” to take a telephone call from a friend on her personal cell phone.

Before I was “waited on,” her manager approached her, brushing by me and two other patrons to give the receptionist instructions on several letters that had many errors on them.

The manager never said “excuse me” to the patrons or to the receptionist. Perhaps she thought it was important for the general public to hear about the errors, as well as the receptionist.

This much younger manager was wearing torn (obviously on purpose by the tear’s location) blue jeans and cartoon characters painted on her finger nails. She also sported a partially exposed tattoo “enhancing” her neck.

Interestingly, the CEO of this organization dresses in appropriate business attire and always shows professional decorum when observed in public. The example for this organization was there, but the example was apparently not enough to affect the behavior of the staff.

While most medical offices seem to adhere to a high degree of manners with respect to what magazines they display in their waiting rooms, grocery stores certainly do not.

It certainly does not seem appropriate to me to have to drag my grandchildren through the near-porn magazine sections at check-out at most grocery stores.

Perhaps grocery stores would find it interesting to see how many customers would bypass the monthly magazine fold-out check-out stands if given an option of checking out at a porn-free check-out stand.

So, what do we do as senior citizens to “fix” what has gone wrong in the manners department of our society.

We can begin by not falling for and simply accepting the “new” lack of manners and civility in our society. We can stand up for good manners, good behavior and civility by demonstrating good behaviors ourselves.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply voice what is expected as basic good manners and behavior, we must demonstrate it consistently ourselves for others to see.

When I commented negatively on someone of senior citizen age being dressed in shorts and flip-flops at a funeral recently (a person that I knew to be normally appropriately dressed in public), I was redressed with the comment that “God doesn’t care what you dress in to worship him.”

I couldn’t agree with my critical friend more. If all that one has is cut-offs and flip-flops to attend a funeral, then his God will certainly bless him for being there. But, funerals are generally sacred in nature as are worship services. Perhaps it is safe to say that we might want to show respect and good manners by dressing for the occasion.

The worn-out statement, “You know pornography when you see it,” probably applies to what one wears in public as well.

It is very difficult to quantify every set of circumstances to determine what is appropriate to wear and what is not appropriate to wear.

But, it’s safe to say that you know if it’s appropriate to wear or not when you watch the reaction on the faces of others when you are first observed by them.

The public schools could go a long way towards improving manners and behavior by having a dress code similar to that of many parochial schools and by having all of their teachers following appropriate teacher-dress guidelines that are both spelled out and enforced by public school administrations.

Since “small” businesses, government offices and public schools seem to do a better job at teaching manners and good behaviors appropriate for their particular settings, they might become the models for the larger entities to follow.

Local senior citizens who sit on various boards of business and public interest entities should consider bringing the topics of manners and good behavior to their discussion agendas and by doing whatever is necessary to stop this decline.

Other seniors might consider noting when there needs to be an improvement in the way the public is being treated and to be proactive in bringing those needs to the individuals who can best make change happen … starting with themselves if needed.

Bad manners and behaviors are just bad habits. They can be changed for the good by creating good habits of manners and behavior. These are best learned by example and repetition.

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