Before you read the rest of this column, turn off the TV, put down your phone (not if you are reading this on your mobile device), close your eyes and for about 20 seconds ask yourself if you consider yourself a rude person.
Then spend another 20 seconds and ask yourself if other people might think you are a person who other people consider rude.
OK, now that you are back. How did you do? If you didn’t like your answer to either question, don’t worry, there’s hope for you.
I have some rules that I try to live by that I think have something to do with being polite. I’m not Mr. Manners or anything, but I do believe that manners and politeness are what we use to remain civil to one another and, most importantly, convey respect.
And right now, at this very moment, what the world needs now is not more Love, Sweet Love, but more R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
It’s not just in national politics. It’s you and me, too. How we treat one another matters. Whether you are talking to your spouse, children, boss, employee, co-worker or the person you just met, manners convey respect.
So, my reader friends, here are the Jim Gouvellis rules of manners, politeness and respect.
• When you meet someone for the first time, extend your hand. Too often people wave at the other person in a first encounter situation. A handshake is a sign that you are starting an introduction with respect.
• Just say please and thank you. You would be surprised how often this doesn’t happen anymore. It costs you nothing to use those words, yet some folks act like it does. Many businesses, especially in the service industry, require their employees to do this. But what about you? Do you require your children to say please when asking for something in public? Do we say please and thank you to our children? The people who work for us? If we don’t insist on this behavior, it will surely become a lost art. And if someone “forgets” to say thank you in an appropriate situation, just say you’re welcome, anyway. That way you held up your end of the bargain and they might remember to say thank you to someone next time.
• Don’t use cuss words in front of people you aren’t married to. The liberal use of bad words has crept into our everyday language in a way I would not have dreamed possible just a few short years ago. I listened to an employee in an auto shop the other day use the F word as a noun, verb and adjective in front of customers in the waiting room. The employee who was listening didn’t flinch. How do you stop this? The only way I can think of is that when you hear it, ask the person if they could refrain from using those words. Creating an uncomfortable situation might lead to a little positive change.
• Hold the door for people. Sounds corny but it is a small gesture that shows other people that you are a civil human being. I don’t adhere to the idea that you should only hold the door open for women. Do it for everyone.
• Teach young people manners, even if they don’t belong to us. If you subscribe to the “it takes a village” philosophy, then it is OK to correct a young person if they forgot to say please or thank you or if you catch them being rude. It might not make you a new friend, but it could change a young person’s life.
• Don’t walk around in a store or other place talking on your mobile phone. Other people don’t want to hear your conversation.
• Interrupting the conversation of others is another important one. I was in the middle of a conversation with a store clerk when a man walked up and asked a question about an electronic device. The young store clerk stopped his sales pitch and conversed with the interrupting man. I felt as though I was treated rudely by both the clerk and the interrupting man. Show respect for the time and point of view of others by letting them finish their interaction with others. If someone is speaking and you have a point or a question to make, either let them finish or ask them politely, “may I interrupt you for a second to ask a question?” They then know that you respect them and are giving them the choice to allow you to interrupt. If manners are really about respect, this is one of those things that immediately signals that the interrupting person is not showing respect.
These are not the only ways we can improve our civil interactions, but it is a start. Send me your ideas about how we can improve how we treat one another in this divided world in which we all live. Maybe together we can do some good.
Oh, by the way, thank you for reading this column.