Where Have Good Manners Gone?

04/02/2015 06:53 pm ET | Updated Jun 02, 2015

"You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream." -- C.S. Lewis (Irish Novelist 1898-1963)

Out the door... it seems. An American friend, visiting from Italy, opened the door for two young women, they sashayed by, not a nod, not a word... no thank you. He shook his head, "When did we lose our manners, our civility?"

Thoughts about manners and rules have been around for more than 4500 years, first written on papyrus giving guidelines on conduct. Today we live in a world of more than seven billion people, more than seven thousand languages are spoken. The English language is the lingua franca today, spoken by millions; it is the language of diplomacy, of currency, of economy, of technology. When we are reminded that common courtesy is on the wane... we might consider why? Role models like parents, teachers and public figures play a major part, so do television and other new technical devices we deal with daily. Coarse language has become part of the public discourse and does not even surprise us anymore, even in Congress the language of courtesy is diminished... maybe even accepted? Incivility can have costs beyond wronged feelings. Yet we are also experiencing the quest for better communicative discourse, which helps to build and grow strong personal and business relationships. Today the value of civility signals awareness of the need to change.

Judith Bowman, President and Founder, Protocol Consultants International, is remarking the following: "Interpersonal communications skills are central to our fabric of society. Today timeless people-skills are more important than ever. The word 'etiquette' is a French word and refers to rules and boundaries. It was created by the French King Louis IV (920-954), more than 1000 years ago. Even today, etiquette still refers to rules and boundaries. Once we are confident in knowing what we do or say within acceptable code of conduct and correct behavior, we also show confidence by focusing on topics of business and can forge critical interpersonal relationships and are respectful towards others."

Let's look at some simple reminders how these can assist in finding a new tone in the search for more politeness. Let's call it the A.B.C. of manners ... here are some ideas of rules: A. Act towards others as you wish be treated; B. Believe in yourself; C. Keep a curious mind; D. Dignify others with your attention; E. Show eloquence when you speak; F. Traveling abroad learn the country's history and tradition, it helps to know a few useful words; G. Giving a gift is thoughtful, not a pay-off; H. Hypocrisy limits your thinking; I. Show interest in others; J. Judgmental attitude is ill conceived self-importance; K. A knife is for cutting, not waving at someone; L. Listening is learning, which is forever; M. Manners differ from nation to nation, good conduct is universal; N. Napkins are for wiping the mouth, not to be used for the nose; O. Be open to new ideas; P. Learn patience; Q. Question unethical behavior; R. Respect other's religions and philosophies; S. Solutions can be found without shouting; T. Tolerance adds value to life; U. Uphold work ethics; V. Validate courtesy; X. Xenophobia is fear and disrespect of the other...avoid it; Y. Yesterday's ideas are not all bad; Z. Avoid zealots.

Just some thoughts which merit common sense. We are a nation of many cultures and one language. The freedom we enjoy in all endeavors is also part of our culture, envied around the world. Yet we have a reputation of arrogance, bad manners, know it all. Let's try to change the image the world has of an America of rudeness and guns, it is like quicksand. We can change this attitude, by reminding ourselves of the greatness this Nation has achieved for hundreds of years. We can be proud, not condescending.

"You have to learn the rules of the game, and then you have to play better than anyone else." --Albert Einstein (German Physicist 1879-1955)