Manners are constantly changing from one century or one generation to the next. For example, a handshake originally was meant to show that men were not carrying a sword or dagger in their hands. Men still tip their hats because once knights in armor lifted the visors of their helmets to show their faces. And it wasn’t too many years ago that a man almost always got up in a crowded bus and gave his seat to a woman. Nevertheless, certain manners do survive from one decade to the next, and this is because manners make life easier for everybody.
There are three important ideas behind the good manners we use today: custom, consideration, and common sense. Custom is the habit of doing certain things like shaking hands and tipping hats mentioned above. Consideration is the most important idea behind all good manners. Almost always, being considerate is being well-mannered. Consideration is simply thinking about the way the other person feels. Being rude to someone is bad manners, not because a book says so, but because it causes hurt feelings. Nearly all good manners have in element of common sense. If you are standing in the rear of a crowded elevator, it’s not reasonable-nor good manners-to try pushing your way to the front so you can get out first.
These are the basic ideas we want to teach our children when we are trying to instill good manners-simple kindness, consideration, and common sense. The following suggestions written for and directed to children may give some added authority in the matter of what is common courtesy and what is not.
Manners at Home
Home is where you learn to get along with people. ‘Me closer you live with other people, the more important good manners are. Everybody in a household should respect the rights and feelings of everybody else. Try to listen when others in the family have something to say. Even a little brother or sister who can’t yet read or a grandmother who seems quite old has a right to an opinion.
It is important for members of a family to consider each other’s privacy. No matter how crowded a home is, everyone in it has a right to some place that is his own. Here are some privacy don’ts:
- Don’t open a closed door until you have knocked and waited for permission to enter.
- Don’t go into anyone else’s bureau, desk, box, or papers at home or anywhere else without his permission.
- Don’t read anyone’s mail or anything he has written (for example, a diary) unless he asks you to.
- Don’t discuss the private affairs of your family with outsiders or tell about a family problem.
Another important part of family good manners is sharing. You share the TV set and the telephone and the bathroom and maybe a bedroom or a closet or a desk. You share the work. This means cleaning up after yourself and sharing the responsibility for the safety of everyone in the house.
Always give the person you are calling plenty of time to get to the phone before you hang up. If the person who answers is not the one you want, give your name and ask if you may speak to the person you’ve called. Ask, “May I speak to Tommy?” not “Is Tommy home!” If he isn’t in, you may leave a message.
If someone dials your number accidentally, accept his apology. Everyone sometimes dials a wrong number. No one intends to. If you accidentally dial a wrong number, excuse yourself.
It is considerate to make phone calls at a time when they will not disturb people. Try not to call too early in the morning (before about 9:00) or too late at night (after about 9:30). Try not to call at mealtime.
It’s handy to keep a pencil and paper near the phone. If someone calls a member of the family who is not at home, ask the caller if he would Ilk to leave a message. If he does, be sure to get his name and number. 7 if you take a message, be sure to remember to deliver it!
Most families have established their own table manners that are important to them. Here are a few that should be remembered when you are at home and when you are a guest:
- Never reach for any food that is not right in front of you. Ask someone to pass it. And if you are passing something, don’t help yourself along the way.
- If your food is too hot, wait for it to cool. Don’t blow on it.
- If you put something in your mouth that’s too hot, don’t spit it out. Reach for your water and take a quick swallow.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full.
- Bring your food up to your mouth rather than bending over to reach it.
There are a few additional rules for eating in a restaurant:
- Don’t be upset if you spill something. It happens all the time. The waiter will clean it up.
- Don’t pick up your silverware if you drop it on the floor. Ask the waiter to replace it for you.
- Don’t put packages or handbags on the table.
- Don’t comb your hair at the table.
- Don’t use a toothpick in public.
Being a Guest
We all know that we have certain responsibilities when we are the host or hostess. But there are responsibilities when one is a guest that are equally important. Here are a few of them:
- Don’t go visiting unless you’re expected.
- Don’t overstay your invitation.
- Don’t expect to be waited on. Offer to help.
- Don’t plan to stay overnight without consulting the hostess and your parents.
- Don’t upset the family’s routine.
- Don’t make extra work. Make your bed, straighten up after yourself.
- Be sure to say thank you for a meal or an overnight visit at a friend’s house.
Manners on the Street
Unless you are at home or at a friend’s house, you are on public property. Bemuse this property is used by many people, it is especially important that everyone use common sense and good manners. Here are some street don’ts:
- Don’t walk in bunches so that you block others.
- Don’t stop to chat in the middle of the sidewalk. Step to the side so that people won’t have to move around you.
- Don’t stare at or make fun of anyone, no matter how strange he may look.
- Don’t be a litterbug.
- Don’t mark on buildings or other public property.
- If you bump into someone or step on his toe, say you’re sorry.