Manners, some people say, are a dying art.
There’s the uncouth youths playing music on the train, the news that Alexa is now reprimanding families for not saying please, and, we shudder to think of it, Twitter. Fred Astaire once said, “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any,” and he died more than 30 years ago.
Here’s a few things you’ll know if you’re one of those valiant souls still defiantly minding your Ps and Qs.
1. Saying sorry is an instinct you cannot ignore
There’s often an inverse proportionality between the people that should say sorry, and the people that do say sorry, and if there’s even a 1% chance you’ve done something wrong you’ll apologise profusely.
Better safe than, er, sorry.
2. When you’re worried you’ve been rude, it haunts you
We trod on someone’s foot in a train station without a proper apology, and we just can’t quite get over the guilt.
That was in 2014.
3. You’re weirdly proud of your manners
There’s something strangely life-affirming about an orderly queue, a genuine enquiry after someone’s health, or an endless succession of “no, after you”.
When you see two people apologise for a shoulder bump that was no one’s fault, you can go about your day knowing that all is right with the world.
4. You’re a master of the evil eye
It’s not always possible to completely hide displeasure, so even the most courteous of souls must cultivate an outlet, subtle enough that it might only be recognised by fellow polite people.
A twitch in the left eye, a momentary purse of the lips, the ol’ fishhook in the eyebrow. Never so obvious, of course, as to be rude.
5. You’re owed vast sums of money by your friends
You wouldn’t dream of calling in the 50p Johnny owes you for parking money, or the £20 Susan borrowed for dinner, or the £1,100 that your social group collectively owes you for the flights to Tom’s stag do…
You might need to rethink some life choices.
6. Other countries can be… perplexing
We’re not making any value judgements here (that would be rude), but different nations have different interpretations of things like queuing and personal space.
On the plus side, there’s Canada.
7. There’s a difference between politeness and etiquette
Politeness doesn’t mean getting sniffy over which knife and fork to use. If you’re actually polite, you’ll let them use whatever cutlery they please.
8. You get really uncomfortable when people are rude in restaurants
We don’t know why this is, but present nice, normal people with a service professional, and in a flash they transform into grumpy, overbearing monsters somewhere between Malcolm Tucker and Cruella de Vil.
We recommend a new form of national service. Instead of two years in the army, everyone must spend a fortnight behind the bar at their local Wetherspoons. Then we’ll see who wants to speak to the manager.
9. Sometimes politeness can be a drawback
Turning into heavy traffic, haggling at market stalls, getting served at a busy bar – just a few essential life skills we’re absolutely terrible at. We like to think that one day karma will reward us for our sacrifice, but in the meantime manners will have to be their own reward.
10. It can be difficult saying no
What you meant was, “There are limbs I’d rather lose than attend your daughter’s ballet recital,” yet what they heard was, “How lovely, I’ll see you there.”
11. Most of the time, politeness is just being nice
Fundamentally, being polite is a low benchmark that everyone should be able to reach. It’s called ‘common courtesy’ for a reason.
- Press Association