Do you remember when you first learned how to behave in public? Did your parents or grandparents teach you? As a young boy, I learned early, as did my siblings about ways to behave in public or social environments with others, regardless of their ages. At the time, I didn’t understand what any of it meant, since I mostly just wanted to play outside with my friends, laughing and chasing each other. Each year, my mother would repeat the rules of how people should learn the correct etiquette in order to be respected. Or was it just to be noticed? I can’t remember.
Unfortunately, social etiquette seems to be followed less and less each year. Are you one of the people who still knows how to be polite, courteous, or chivalrous in society? I wonder if teaching young children about etiquette is passé. In my daily travels, I am appalled how so few people understand the importance of social etiquette and pride. Most children, teens and all the others seem to be oblivious to knowing anything at all about ways to conduct themselves in public. I love observing people in all walks of life, especially when riding public transportation, shopping in the local food market, having a cocktail in a bar, reading, or researching work in the library, or just walking around town. The way I see the world often leaves me in a state a shock. I wish I could go back in time to observe how humans became the animals and how animals have become more human and loving toward each other. On certain days, I am totally baffled by the things I see and the conversations that I hear. The one that always shocks me the most is the way children and teens talk to their parents in public and some of the profane words they yell at them always gives me whiplash from turning around so quickly to look at the parents. They accept it and I usually just walk away feeling confused.
This week, my partner and I took a beautiful stroll along the bay. After two hours, I suggested that we stop at a local restaurant and bar to grab a beer on this beautiful, hot day. We were seated next to a husband and wife with their 4-year-old little boy. Initially, I thought, how odd it was to bring a child into a bar. Within minutes, I wanted to finish my beer in one or two swallows as the child was yelling and misbehaving without any parental guidance. Several clients glanced over, but the parents ignored it all. The best part was getting away from them to try to enjoy the beautiful sunshine again. Why would anyone think this was appropriate behaviour?
I never considered myself old fashioned, but I gladly cling to the title now. By the end of train, tram, or any public transportation ride, I am able to learn everything about the person screaming into their phones. By the way, it’s not just teens or young people yelling at their mobile devices, older people are doing it too. They have adjusted to the wave of being hip and cool. Often, restaurants are the quietest places to be when a table full of friends are all starring at their phones or posting photos of their food. Actually, no one is ever talking to each other. It actually amuses me to watch.
What is social etiquette anyway? Etiquette is not just about which fork to use. It’s showing respect for yourself and everyone else in your circle. In a world where rudeness often reigns, why not stand out for being polite and thoughtful? Etiquette simply means a collection of little reminders to help people understand how to behave in various situations. At one point in time, etiquette ensured that people would know what society in general expects. There were standard rules to appropriate behaviour. Etiquette or social skills should involve an attitude of respect and concern toward others to ensure that everyone feels valued and comfortable. Passé, huh?
Here is a couple of the rules that I followed growing up and others have evolved:
- Offering my seat to any person that may be elderly, disabled, pregnant, or may appear to not be in good health.
- Avoid manspreading on public transportation. I didn’t understand it as a boy, but as I grew up it became clear, especially when there is nowhere to sit on a crowded bus.
- When walking with someone that identifies as female, the man or boy should walk closer to the street. This rule is probably a bit out of date today.
- Always hold the door for the person behind you.
- Say thank you when someone does something nice for you. It’s the 2 words that I don’t hear enough, along with excuse me, and please.
- Step outside when you receive an important call when you are in a place of business, such as a doctor’s office, a restaurant, etc. Unless it’s urgent, most calls can go to voicemail.
- When someone is talking to you, try to look at them instead of at your mobile device.
- Show kindness to others. A great example when standing in line and someone looks stressed, offer them to go in front of you. Often when shopping at the market, someone will have 2 or 3 items when I have a full basket. When you make the offer, it’s amazing how the person smiles and says thank you. They will never forget you.
- During flu or cold season, try to remember to cough or sneeze in your elbow.
- Pet owners — Clean up after your dog(s) so others won’t step in their business.
- When attending an event, ascertain the details so that you can dress for the occasion.
- Saying hello to people when I enter a room or if walking and someone is walking toward me, smile, nod, or say hello out of respect. I am so excited to learn how to properly say, G’day mate.
- If seeing a film in a theatre or play, silence your mobile device before entering.
- Learn to say you are sorry when you are wrong or walk on stage at an awards ceremony to slap someone while it’s being televised worldwide, remember to apologise to the person in a private meeting and not on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter because it means absolutely nothing at all.
Etiquette is about kindness, friendliness, being polite, about integrity, and about good manners. It helps us know how to treat others and to know how we should be treated. It shows us how to behave and conduct ourselves in different environments.
Etiquette is not about being perfect, or being prim and proper, it’s not about your social class, profession or how rich or well educated you are. Good manners always make a good impression. The first 5–7 seconds when you meet someone for the first time are crucial and if you use proper etiquette, that first impression will be a more positive one.
Can you share one social etiquette that you learned as a child that you still use today?