On two separate occasions this past week, I saw two strangers for the millionth time.
They also saw me.
In both cases, I thought, “This is ridiculous!” so I went over, extended my hand and introduced myself to both people who in each case happen to be men around my age. One is a neighbor and the other is a guy who attends my church.
“Hey! I’m Michael” I said in both cases. “I’ve seen you around and thought I would just come up and say hello.”
Now … here’s the thing.
Again, in both cases, the guys looked at me as if they had seen ghosts. More on this in a moment.
Can someone please tell me whatever happened to manners? I mean, seriously. At some point, in the past couple of decades, our society lost hold on decent manners.
I’m not blaming this on MTV or Beavis and Butthead, but I think it happened around the time we started seeing those things. Suddenly, it was as if everyone had an excuse to behave badly … not that many folks these days need an excuse.
People don’t introduce themselves to other people anymore, they don’t use salutations in email, and they rarely say “Thank you,” “Please” or “You’re welcome.”
And forget about hearing, “I’m sorry.” When is the last time you heard anybody say “Sorry” or at least, “Excuse me”?
Do you know what we need? We need finishing school. Can we bring back finishing school?
I mean, really. I’m far from being Mr. Manners, but some things are basic … like manners. Manners should come with the gig of life.
These days, you hear so many employers say they cannot find young job candidates with “soft skills.” In other words, these candidates have had little – if any – “home training.” They don’t know how to show up for work on time, they don’t know how to get along with co-workers and they lack the social graces that most baby boomers take for granted. However, there are plenty of baby boomers out there who could use finishing school.
As you know, finishing school was and is generally regarded as courses that mainly well-to-do, emerging adults go through after completing their formal education. The point is to teach them the social graces needed to make their way through society and life.
Yet, somewhere down the line, finishing school got shot to crap. Yes, I needed to say it just like that.
Today, most people would probably consider even the prospect of finishing school a big joke … which is precisely the problem.
I’m convinced that – these days – if you’ve had even a marginal upbringing and decent manners, you can probably go anywhere in the world and do just fine. However, we’re living during a time when people actually get rewarded for behaving badly. There’s literally a public forum on social media for people to literally pull down their pants and show their asses. Literally. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the ass-revealing selfies.
I think that good manners are now often synonymous with political correctness, effeminate behavior or even being a pushover at best or worse yet, a doormat. This is unfortunate. I believe that bad manners are one surefire sign of a society in decline. Haven’t you noticed?
Actually, I also trace bad manners back to lack of arts education in schools and our inability to connect with our own creative souls. But you knew I would bring that up, didn’t you?
There are numerous people on the national stage right now who are being highly rewarded for behaving very badly. People are literally applauding and supporting this deplorable behavior. It’s a sad commentary not on those who behave badly, but rather on our society and those who support it. There’s simply no excuse for this.
Can we bring back finishing school? Truth be told, this really goes much deeper than using finishing school to address ingrained, poor manners. I think we’re seeing right before our very eyes the erosion of good and basic human values overall. I’m not even necessarily talking about morality. I’m talking about common courtesy and decency at this point.
What’s more, many people don’t seem to care. It seems everyone is just out to “get theirs” and damn everyone else. Who has time, let alone the inclination for manners when you’re busy stabbing people in the back? It’s as if everyone is living in hand made silos.
My guess would be that finishing school would be at the very least a band-aid on the larger issue, but it would indeed be a tiny step in the right direction.
I recall back when I was a kid, my mom would encourage me to introduce myself to people. If you see someone interesting, get up, dust yourself off, pop a breath mint, extend your hand, introduce yourself and say hello.
Common courtesy, no brainer, doesn’t cost you a dime. The benefits of putting yourself out there far outweigh the risk of rejection. Just do it.
You don’t need to be “Miss Manners” to break the ice. Breaking the ice is so important because it short circuits prejudice, snap judgments and jumping to conclusions about people we don’t even know. I’m sure this is something they’d teach in finishing school, but what do I know?
Back to those two dudes who I met … you know, the fact that they looked at me as if I were a Martian after I introduced myself to them really tells the story. As a society, our manners have declined so much that we don’t even know how to behave around someone who displays even marginal manners. Oftentimes, many people who observe good manners in others assume that they’re pompous or trying to “be better” than them.
“Who does s/he think s/he is?” they ask. Sad.
However, the problem isn’t really lack of manners; it’s a total lack of self-awareness. We don’t or can’t even see how our behavior contributes to the overall state of the world. The problem is never within US, it’s always the other person who has done something wrong. We don’t take the time to self-examine and self-correct.
I can only guess that our world might be at least a little different if everybody went through finishing school.
But hey, that’s just me talking.