Manners, Rudeness, and Magic Words

Barney is the college mascot of polite behavior.

Barney is the college mascot of polite behavior.

Dear Kid,

What is the key-number-one-top-of-the-list most important thing you can control to make sure you have a successful future?

Not clean underwear, although that’s pretty high on the list.

Not a good sense of humor, although that will make you more fun to hang out with.

Not even a great college education, although I hope you are spending some time studying as your tuition is far too high to make it ok to ignore the studying part.

The number one, must have, most important thing you can learn is manners.

Way back when you used to watch Barney, the big purple guy used to sing about “Please and Thank You, ‘cause they’re the magic words. If animals could talk you’d hear the fishes and the birds saying Please and thank you, ‘cause they’re the magic words….” Do you have the tune running through your head right now? I do. Dang…must go find other music…

The number of rude and inconsiderate people in the world is staggering. There is absolutely no reason for you to be one of them and several gazillion reasons for you not to. It takes so little effort to be polite and has such a big payoff.

Yes, you guessed it. Someone was rude to me. It wasn’t even well-done rudeness where you could say to yourself, “ah, that person was being rude on purpose for a specific reason” or “oh, ho! That individual has made a study of rudeness and raised it to an art form” or even “I see someone has been reading Oscar Wilde again.” Nope. This was plain old, boring, inconsiderateness. Blech.

So here are today’s (and by today’s I really mean today, this minute because I’m thinking about it, not today meaning modern day) reminders about being polite.

  • If there is a meeting/appointment/performance/class/study group, get there on time. By which I mean 5 to 10 minutes early. The only acceptable time for lateness is when it’s just a big party and people are coming and going all the time. If there is significant blood or fire, you might be forgiven if you are late but only if you singed or well bandaged.

  • Apologize profusely for inadvertent rudeness. And if you are going to apologize, say you’re sorry like you mean it, not like your mother is standing there saying “what do you say…?”

  • Offer to help. Or better yet, just help. Open a door, carry something, hold the elevator, clean up after yourself.

  • Be gracious. If someone opens the door for you, offers to carry your books, or does something else that is kind, smile, say thank you, perhaps even return the favor. Under no circumstances should you ignore the gesture or refuse the assistance. (Note: in the 70s many women refused to let men open doors, etc. for them. They were Making a Point, and maybe it needed to be made then. Personally, I think even in that Not Quite Enlightened Time they could have been more gracious. More importantly, this is not Then and there is absolutely no reason to refuse courtesies.)

  • Use those magic words. Please, thank you, excuse me, may I, good morning, I’ll see you tomorrow. You know the ones. The words you’d use if someone else’s mother was standing there.

I probably didn’t need to remind you of any of this. You probably never grunt at people as a way of communicating now that you’re in college. But I really am annoyed at the Rude Person. Thanks for listening,

Love, Mom

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