“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.
If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” ― Emily Post
The conversation was louder than the library normally would encourage. Her lack of concern for those trying to study was not surprising, though, as she was seldom aware of the people around her. His rattling of the wrapper was disturbing everyone around him in the church service. Heads turned to see the source of the disruption, and he appeared oblivious. When does it begin — this awareness of how our words and actions make others feel? Oddly, there are a lot of people who know to place the glass above the knife and to use the outside fork for the first course, but they know nothing of being sensitive to the feelings of others. Without that sensitivity, we might need to head back to Manners 101.
Teaching, and learning, lessons is so much easier when there is a visual example to keep in mind. When my friend Jill shared a photo of the air filter in her classroom recently, it was a lightbulb moment for me. Filters are great teachers of manners, I think. The filter in her classroom was black from air pollution and our old aquarium would become a green mess if the filter were left unchanged. The purpose of a filter is to remove impurities, to provide the cleanest end product. Filters are everywhere: electronics, camera lenses, and coffee makers. We wouldn’t dream of making a pot of coffee without something to filter the grounds from the finished product, so why do so many of us think it is acceptable to speak or act without filters?
Instagram is a social network for sharing photos, and there are several filters from which to choose before friends see your pictures. Why so many choices? People want just the right appearance for what they are sharing, and if we want to be sensitive to the feelings of others, we need a filter over more than our photos. If we were to be as intentional with filtering our speech as we are our photos or the air in our homes, the world we live in would be a lot cleaner, don’t you think? How do we go from admitting a speech and action filter would be wise to putting it into use, though?
As with any new skill, you must practice. If you can’t come up with some topics on your own, you might try watching television for a few minutes, eavesdropping on a conversation in a restaurant, or looking through social media for things others are saying. People are full of gossip, belittling comments, and sometimes hate-filled opinions, along with acting in thoughtless ways.
- “You’re just an idiot,” might get your point across, but it stirs up all kinds of emotions in your listener. Maybe a better choice of words would be, “I don’t guess I understand your thought on this issue.”
- “He should be punched for saying something like that!” might let you blow off some steam, but punching someone for what they say is illegal and is probably not really what you would do.
- Jumping in front of someone who stopped to look at one of the many items on the way to the checkout is rude and definitely lacking sensitivity. Why not politely alert someone that the line is moving?
It is easy to spew words or react without giving your actions much thought, but cleaning up the mess is as difficult as getting coffee grounds out of a cup of coffee when you forget to use a filter. You might use great grammar and the right fork, but without a little sensitivity, you are lacking in the manners department. If your adventures are leading you out of your home this year, “Do unto others…” is a good place to begin.