My mother was a great one for manners. We mightn’t have had a whole lot of anything else, but by hell, Mammy’s six sons went out that gate knowing our manners! Not much soup – but we knew which way to tilt the dish!
It may sound old fashioned to mention manners nowadays, but as manners is simply no more than showing consideration and respect for other people, should it ever be out of vogue? The ‘well, thank you’ may have been replaced by the word ‘fine’ when you ask a kid how they are, but good manners does prevail even in today’s breakneck world. The Americanisation of English in our country has much to do with the reduction of ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ This is where the ‘fine’ comes from; same as ‘hey waiter, gimme a coffee’ replacing ‘may I have a coffee please.’
In our house, back in the day, there were two manners manuals; ‘mind your manners’ and ‘watch your manners.’ The former was the last instruction going out the door when going to a friend’s house, the ‘pictures’, or some other ‘do’. I don’t remember the directive being given before a hurling match because we would all be so fired up, manners would have been a drawback! ‘Watch your manners’ was issued mostly inside the four walls of our home. It was generally an admonishment or threat.
I don’t know the difference between manners and etiquette, but they are both a code of conduct and play a significant role in social interactions. We must treat others with respect if we want to be treated respectfully. Good manners and etiquette create a culture of trust and respect, allowing you to network and be at ease in company. You are better equipped to influence others when you act according to social protocols.
To dress appropriately for the occasion is very much showing both respect and good manners. What you wear might not be as important as it once was, but if you are the only guest as a wedding in jeans and fluffy jumper – take it from here, you got it wrong! Don’t show for a job interview inappropriately dressed, or you won’t get the job.
I remember the leader of a music group coming in to me in ‘Paddy’s Point’, looking for a gig. He obviously hadn’t given much thought as to what he should wear, or not wear. He came into my office wearing a Rangers T-shirt! (No, Gorls … if you don’t get it – can we just leave it at that!)
We in Ireland are pretty mannerly when driving on our roads. Courtesy is common and we are the best at allowing another driver to get into traffic. Give a faster car room to overtake on a country road and you generally receive the ‘double wink’ as a thank you. One area where bad manners is more the rule than the exception is the lack of use of traffic indicators – especially on roundabouts. Also, less and less drivers are indicating that they are overtaking a cyclist or pedestrian.
Once upon a time the car indicator was a courtesy aid and most drivers wouldn’t dream of changing lanes without indicating. Now, a significant percentage of drivers believe it to be nothing but an aggressive tool solely for cutting in or pulling out where it is dangerous to do so.
Being a good listener is a much appreciated example of good manners. Listen attentively and respond respectfully. Not everyone will tell you what you want to hear, but try and always maintain a courteous approach towards the other person. (Yes, I know, Lads; I am the last person who should be preaching that line!)
If I may conclude with a handful of gripes which I personally rate as bad manners. Some years back some genius came up with the mind-boggling conviction that a firm handshake was the sign of good character. Everybody must have read the same findings, because the disclosure spawned a multitude of hand-crushers! Holy God, you would need splints on your fingers before shaking hands with some would-be-men-of-sound-character!
Another one of mine is where I hold a door open for somebody and they don’t say ‘thank you.’ I do tend to pull one back in these situations by saying ‘you’re welcome’ anyway!
And finally …. Good manners are not just about ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Manners shows our attitude towards other people and to the world around us Body language and tone of voice can offend without a word being spoken. I bought a little hanging sign in America many years ago and displayed it in various places of work in subsequent years. The sign read; ‘COURTESY IS CONTAGIOUS.’ That is the greatest advertisement for good manners I have yet come across!
He who has the habit of smiling at the cash register instead of the customer won’t be smiling long.