As a nation, we have been known to place massive importance on good manners, and it’s a big part of our culture.
Holding doors open for people, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – these are things we’re meant to do, right? These days, I find myself doubting it more and more, and there are two reasons why.
The first is that hardly anyone seems to be polite these days. Walking into people has become normal, now, especially when it’s busy in town.
It’s like they’ve given up trying to walk around people, and so they just plough through crowds like they’re fields being harvested.
It happened to me again today. I mean, I know I’m short, but I’m not short enough to be invisible … am I?
The second reason is that some people have been known to laugh or look surprised when I’ve asked for something and said ‘please.’ I guess this reaction was understandable when I was five, but not so much nowadays. If people are surprised, what does that say about society?
This led me to thinking about the stereotype that teenagers aren’t polite.
Are we or aren’t we? It’s a hard question to answer, because I know people my age who don’t even know what the word ‘polite’ means, but I also know people my age who are so polite they could rival the Queen… probably.
But which group is the minority? I don’t think we’ll ever know. Some older people are impolite, too, and while most people seem to focus on politeness in teenagers, no one really talks about the older people.
A few months ago I was queuing to pay for something in Poundland, and the most innocent-looking elderly lady suddenly pushed through everyone in the queue to get to the front.
I almost respect people who can queue-jump really, really subtly – I have no idea how they manage it – but not when it’s bordering on violent. If she’d asked to go in front, I would have said yes anyway.
Are manners even relevant anymore? Do they matter?
They are two questions I can answer, and the answer for both is, yes, they are relevant, just maybe not as prominent. And they do matter.
How do you feel when someone barges into you in the street and, on top of that, doesn’t even mutter an apology as they hurry past? Hurt, or at the very least, slightly bewildered.
But when someone is polite to us, we feel respected and appreciated.
As a society, we’re definitely less polite than we used to be. I didn’t even realise that asking to leave the table at dinner was a thing people actually do until a few weeks ago. But manners still matter, don’t they?
They keep things fair. Are they slowly becoming old-fashioned… or have they already?