Manners, Etiquette, and Courtesy: Behavioral Patterns That Never Hurt

good manners
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Good manners will never run out of fashion. Nisha JamVwal talks about how courtesy and etiquette is the need of the hour.


I want to start this article by asking you a question, “Are good manners passé or a thing of the past and considered uncool?” It is, however, my belief that people who have an inflated attitude, ride roughshod on friends, are off-hand, do not return calls or pick up calls, behave in a manner which they believe is ‘superior’ and ‘cool’ are people with a glaring lack of self-esteem. There’s no point wearing McQueen or Louboutin when basic etiquette, warmth and goodness is lacking. To watch your P’s and Q’s actually makes you a superior and not an inferior person. I’ve always found high self-esteem people more assured in their good behaviour and unsuccessful people brash and impolite. To denigrate and show down a friend, to be discourteous or believe one appears popular by ignoring calls and not acknowledging messages is cavalier. That sense of entitlement to be offhand is not a statement of strength but of weakness.

good manners
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You’re sitting with a friend and furiously Whatsapping some of your groups. Why would you then be with your friend in the first place? Why not just stay at home and be on WhatsApp. It is extremely bad etiquette to sit at a table and use your phone. Next time you go out to a restaurant, observe and you will see that many people don’t converse with their companions but are on the phone furiously typing away and smiling into the phone. Such people are big bores and friends begin to surreptitiously avoid them and make excuses for not meeting them. The smarter thing is to disengage from this addictive habit of continuous phone stimulation and learn to enjoy some gap time having a human to human conversation. Bad enough is the phone fever of the yacka-minute vacuous bimbette, now you have incestuous groups passing around alarmist misinformation about death and devastation engaging monumental time and energy which could be spent rehabilitating actual storm and abject poverty victims. Phew! Today’s people are more stimulated with the beep and buzz of a phone than a real-life conversation and companionship. It’s a message you’re relaying to your friend, that they are less important to you than your conversation on the phone with someone else who engages your attention at that time. Etiquette and niceties are becoming obsolete in the face of being ‘a dude’.

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Do you remember the scene from ‘The Intern’ when the unflappable Robert De Niro advises his junior to wear a tucked-in shirt as opposed to a hoodie on a date? Unkempt hair, a dishevelled appearance, open overused shoes and a general appearance of nonchalance and contrived unconcern about ones look is also the new age ‘cool’ thing to do. You come dressed in well-ironed clothes that give you a professional neat look and you’re generally considered a ‘nerd’, ‘square’ and uptight. And yet if you go for a job or want success in your chosen career it is important to recognise earlier than later in life that you have to look and feel like a performance-oriented, ‘with-it’ professional. It is important to look the part and play the part of a well-groomed, oriented professional.

An interesting piece of information I got on vacation at my favourite holiday destination Switzerland, is that in the formative years there is greater stress upon good conduct than pumping kids with information overdose. Children who go into school are taught good manners, standing in a queue, P’s and Q’s and etiquette early in their education. Schools and teachers give as much priority to good behaviour as to information and knowledge so that time is set aside to teach them about the importance of good manners and proper social conduct. Parents of Swiss kids are asked to support schools in instilling of value systems and social behaviour into children even before bookish knowledge is meted out. The same atmosphere is maintained at home where restraint and good behaviour are taught and kids are steered toward the right path so that it becomes second nature.

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Whatever happened to excuse me in our generation? I find ladies with big handbags in the supermarket just bumping into me all the time and never a word of remorse. And yes only in India do I see people blustering in front of a group posing for a picture. Everywhere else in the world (and I’ve travelled extensively) I’ve seen people wait politely when they see a photograph being taken.

There is an informality that has crept into society, and I’m not objecting to that, it might even be more relaxing and chilled out overall in a high-pressure performance-oriented existence, but what is the bad form is impoliteness and brashness. It is easy to recognise that if you make demands than requests you will find that you are not very loved or coveted. It doesn’t hurt or cost to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, in fact, you’ll find yourself to be more popular. And if you use the ‘F’ word a little less and dress in well-ironed, washed clothes and comb your hair you might find yourself a good job too. The interesting thing is the better your manners, the more respect you command, and so the viral effect of good attracts good works. On the other hand, inappropriate behaviour puts you at a disadvantage in your career, personal life and even your friendships. So what is this if not an all-around win-win situation to work at being cultured, civilized and gracious?


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