8 Old School Manners We Want Back

Do you groan when you think about manners? Do you remember your cotillion or your mother telling you to chew with your mouth closed? I get it.

But the thing is, manners were important to people for a reason. They were based on common courtesies that people wanted to see reflected throughout society. In some cases, when we lost a particular set of manners, we lost the courtesy. And if we can reclaim those manners, we will reclaim the courtesy.

Don't worry! I'm not going to go all Emily Post on you (though you get extra points if you don't have to Google her!). But I am going to suggest a fews simple ways we can go about treating each other better. If we can reclaim some of these manners, we'll be happier both as individuals and as a culture.

1. Making Eye Contact

Let me be the first to tell you that I am terrible at making and maintaining eye contact. It makes me nervous, and I'm highly visually distractible, so anything that moves draws my eye. But it's these very reasons that have moved me to focus on making eye contact more often.

Looking someone in the eyes tells them that they are important. It tells them that they have your full and complete attention. In this age where so many people are distracted by cell phones, where we text in the middle of meals with friends and take calls in the middle of meetings, stopping and taking the care to make eye contact can change things. People matter. We should let them know.

2. Not Staring

This may seem like it opposes the previous point, so let me explain. Eye contact involves some sort of exchange. In order to look someone in the eyes, they must also be looking into your eyes (or else you end up looking at their forehead). But staring usually involves looking at someone when they are not returning that look.

Watching people can be interesting and fun, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But there's no need to stare, to watch someone in a way that is overly intense or invasive: it is rude and potentially hurtful. Instead of staring, say hi or offer a smile, then mind your own business.

3. Remembering "Please" and "Thank You"

These words have been nearly deleted from the vocabularies of almost everyone who does not work in customer service. But they shouldn't just be words that we say to give a particular professional impression.

Saying "please" and "thank you" isn't just polite — it can change the ways we think. When we say "please," it can help us remember that we are asking someone to go out of their way for us. And when we say "thank you," it can spark actual gratitude in us, can remind us that we have something to be grateful for even in the middle of a day that is mundane or difficult.

And these words remind the people we're speaking to that we appreciate them, that they have value to us, and that we honor their presence.

4. Making Conversation

By "making conversation," I don't mean making small talk. It used to be that learning how to carry on a conversation was considered good manners. This means learning how to ask good, appropriate questions of people you're just meeting or of acquaintances, and how to answer questions, too.

We have lost this art. Today, we seem to engage in small talk or we want to go deep. However, it's hard to go deep without some sort of foundation, and making conversation can provide this foundation for the relationships we crave. So, next time you ask someone what they do for a living, follow up by asking them how they got into the field, or why they chose that career, or what their favorite part of the job is.

5. Writing Thank You Notes

I feel like I hear a lot about thank you notes when manners come up, and that can get old really, really fast. But the truth is that a handwritten thank you note expresses more than gratitude.

Think about the last one of these that you got and how it made you feel. Taking the time to write out your gratitude says that you see something of the heart behind the gift or action you're expressing gratefulness for, and that you recognize the love behind the gift.

6. Remembering to RSVP

If someone asks you to RSVP to an event, do it. Even if you really don't know if you'll be able to come, let the organizer know that. They will appreciate the fact that you valued them and their invitation enough to let you know.

When you RSVP, you honor the fact that someone values you enough to invite you to a special event. Even if you can't go, your response acknowledges the relationship between you and says that you value it.

7. Holding Doors Open

This is not just a call for men to hold doors for women. It's a call for all of us to open our eyes to the world around us, to the other people in our midst, and to help them when they need it.

I can't tell you how many times I've been grateful for someone holding a door for me when I've been balancing a screaming toddler, a shopping cart, my purse, and a diaper bag. It's particularly awesome when I don't even have to struggle first, when someone sees that I'm going to need help and jumps in.

This simple action has changed my day before, and I've become intentional in trying to notice and change a day for other people. No one wants to struggle with a door, to hold up a bunch of people and create a bottleneck. So notice, and help them out.

8. Making Proper Introductions

I think we all know the awkwardness of finding ourselves in a group conversation where we don't know everyone. I don't think we go into a situation intending to not introduce someone, but we do it all the time. It ends up being disrespectful to almost everyone involved.

If you don't have time to prepare an introduction, simply introduce people by name and by their relationship with you. If you do have time to prepare, focus on how people might connect and mention these things in your introduction. No matter how you introduce people, though, they will feel valued and honored that you made the effort.

Are manners important to you? Which ones are you intentional about incorporating into your life?

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8 Old School Manners We Want Back

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Guest's picture

I don't attend many weddings, graduations or other functions I find the people rude and uncaring..Really, if I go to any of these with a gift I would think the recipients would say thank you and I don't mean an e-mail...Many have no manners in this world their parents never taught them spit about being a grateful or even mannerly person..I gave a nice gift for a college graduation I have never received a thank you at all, I gave a relative a lovely wedding gift actually 2 and never received as much as a thank you the dad of the son mentioned he never sent out one thank you I thought what the you know what..I even sent the wedding photos to him and his wife they are still married never heard one word, that was it for me..My aunt used to send lots of tiny presents when my mother (her only sibling) was dying of cancer to all of us in our family..I absolutely had to write out a thank you while my Mom was barely hanging on, she thought it was over the moon for her beloved sister to give so much when she was struggling to live..No I think most people think their kids have manners but they don't and most adults don't have any either so I just skip celebrations!