Manners. Courtesy. Social graces.
Where have they gone? When did we become an all-about-me society that frowns upon kind, thoughtful, and polite people? Why are those few viewed as sweet or old-fashioned, and all too often, not taken seriously?
It’s always baffled me when someone finds himself (or herself) skeptical of a nice person. He waits for the shoe to drop, not believing that anyone would do something nice for no reason. He thinks that she must want something from him—if not now, down the line. Then he asks himself, “What am I going to owe her if I am receptive to her kindness?” He’s skeptical and distrustful, therefore aloof or avoidant, appearing cold and distant.
This can be especially true when it comes to people who are available romantically. They fear the opposite (or same) sex because they think everyone wants them. Everyone is interested in dating them. People misconstrue a polite and friendly person as a person who is coming onto them.
Just maybe, those people should stop flattering or thinking so highly of themselves. Some people are genuinely friendly and interested in others without wanting anything other than lighthearted social connection. An exchange of pleasantries in an all too often cold and impersonal world.
Manners come from the heart. Etiquette describes the requirements of behavior according to the conventions of society. But what does that mean today when it often seems that the selfish and arrogant folk claw their way to the top while others are left at the bottom, perceived as weak or lacking that killer instinct?
Why is it that professionalism and maturity are viewed as traits that ostracize us from the in-crowd? And friendliness, as well as common courtesy, is viewed as a weakness? How is it that’s become the norm and not the exception?
Social graces are not the equivalent of money, class, or ostentatiousness. They are the traits of a decent person. Whether born into privilege or poverty, how we treat others speaks loudly of who we are as people.
Money could never buy these quality characteristics, and entitlement isn’t necessarily the result of social class, but rather, an attitude of perceived superiority—or inferiority. Someone who believes they are inherently deserving of special treatment.
Being kind and diplomatic is a strength, a negotiation skill that can be applied in any life situation by any individual. Berating and belittling others are cowardly actions—actions that bullies pride themselves on and wear as a badge of honor.
A sweet soul is not a simpleton. A polite person is not a throwback to the 50s. A simple hello or wishing our fellow human a good day is not an invasion of privacy, an invitation for friendship, or a come-on. It may just be a friendly person longing to engage in the simplicity of pleasantries. Then spread that goodness around as the day goes on.
It’s more than saying “please” and “thank you.” It’s small acts of random kindness that we practice each day.
Live in a manner that shows you mean it by incorporating these timeless traits, and maybe, just maybe, we can be the change we want to see in the world.