Monday, 20 August 2012

What about setting examples?

I hear a lot of “Yes, there’s a real need for etiquette and good manners training, ‘so and so’ really needs it”. Then they stop there. The following thought that’s never voiced out loud is “but not me, I know everything I need to know about the subject”. Believe me; I get this from 75% of the people I talk to. No one admits that everybody, including themselves benefits from a conscious effort to make manners a fixture in their lives. I don’t think people are aware of the impact of failing to do so.
Last week I went to the closing sale at White’s Supermarket in Warwick. Not an unexpected scenario – big crowds and long checkout lines. From what I could observe, people were generally well mannered. I even noticed people sharing shopping carts with strangers, an admirable thing to do. As I stood in the checkout line chatting with others close to me we watched a nicely dressed elderly woman glance in our direction then inserted herself into the line several people ahead of us. I know she heard the comments a few people made about what she’d done. She made a few more sideways glances at the people behind her then ignored us all. One could say that as a senior citizen she should be respected and I agree with that. What I had issue with was the way she knowingly and intentionally disrespected everyone else by not asking if anyone minded what she was doing or even making an excuse for her actions . Even a smile and shy ‘thank you’ would probably have been jokingly accepted by others patiently waiting in line. I can pretty much ‘read’ people and I’m willing to bet that she would be quite vocal at injustices visited on her by other people. This was not a life threatening situation that required urgency and she walked right into the line displaying no disabilities (unless she considered her age to be the disability). Was it worth the 20 minutes she saved? Bermuda is a small place and though people in that line may not know her personally, her actions will likely be the first thing they remember when they see her again. Already a negative if she wants to make a good first impression some day. So what she said was:
  • ·         I’m better than you.
  • ·         You’re not important enough to ask permission to displace you.
  • ·         Do not deserve my respect.
  • ·         This is how to get what you want - just take it. 

A really bad example for children observing this. Probably aware of all the above she just didn’t care. And that’s the root of the problem – being so wrapped up in your own needs you don’t care about others. It’s like crime. If you get away with it once and it’s easy to convince yourself its normal behavior. You do it over and over. And there are some people who will use her example as an excuse to behave the same way. Small indiscretions add up, impacting the people around you and the moral fabric of society.
Trudy Snaith, Etiquette Consultant