Good manners

For years I’ve believed that simple good manners could save dire political situations, especially in the workplace, and bad manners can sink them.  Today’s local news offers some substantiation for this, first in the form of a news article about a store clerk who simply asked (nicely) that the would-be holdup man please leave, and second, in the variety of finger pointing on the topic of who should shovel around the mail box (not an argument at my house, given that there is no mail box and my predilection for shoveling).

Sometimes, I think, bad manners is just about laziness.  Certainly there are a lot of very good reasons, having nothing to do with politeness, that some folks can’t shovel and that other folks drive fast through slush puddles and splash pedestrians.  Other times, these traps are the result of plain bad manners, however.

Does that matter?  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs would indicate that manners kick in at some point after physiological and safety needs are met.  So, do poor manners indicate that a vast number of seemingly middle class folks are without these basics?  Or is it all an ironic joke on Emily Post and Charlotte Ford:  people don’t want to seem showy about their needs being well met and so they practice bad manners so no one catches on to the fact that life is basically pretty good?  My mother would be quick to point out that that’s the dif between manners and etiquette: manners help others to feel comfortable, while etiquette can get enmeshed in acting in accord with someone else’s rules.

The clerk in Lower Sackville is a model of why good manners make sense:  he helped make the other fellow feel comfortable enough to rethink the situation and choose an alternative.


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