Has your neighbour played music so loud that your walls shake to the music? Have you encountered someone who talks so loud that you could hear her from another room? Have you heard things that should not have been said in the open? Hardly is anyone commenting on or complementing the rudeness that is overtaking the world.
Someone sits in front of you in the bus and spits every now and then. The window is open and the bus is speeding. So she spits and the wind carries the spittle and lands it on you. You go into an office and the person who should attend to you is on the phone. You try to be polite so you decide to wait until she finishes. But you learn that the person is making plans on how to spend the weekend on the phone with her friend and gossiping as well. You ignore the behaviour so that you can get on with your business but the next person who enters the office is greeted by the same behaviour. We hardly comment when confronted by such bad-mannered people. They deserve to be corrected even if it is through criticism. But who will criticize when you and I don’t?
Personal freedom should never be valued above the collective good or the need to live in harmony together. We cannot afford to be turned into a community that only cares about the freedom of the individual especially when the freedom is used to disrespect others. Good manners are not just about how we eat or speak; it is about sharing and cooperation in which we show kindness and respect others.
Good manners do not belong to the generation of our grandparents, we still need them today. Manners imply stable values and all kinds of social structures depend on them. Good manners are closely linked to moral values and you see a degree of refinement in the person who displays them.
We live in a society that is impatient. The idea of manners may seem obscure in our ever changing and fast-paced world. But it is in this very atmosphere that we need the good manners. Manners don’t belong to a dead past, they are helpful in our daily business. The manners we fail to exhibit is to our detriment.
Rudeness is common and majority of us seem to have developed some kind of immunity to it when it is displayed. We notice it and move on. A customer care agent of a telecommunication company has shouted at me over the phone after which he cut the call. I called for a request and I sure was not impolite. A pregnant woman in a hospital called a nurse who was busy chatting away with someone. She was drawing the attention of the nurse because she was suspecting that her baby was about coming. Without checking on her the nurse continued chatting and even advised her against pushing. The result was that the woman almost suffocated her child. A horrible incidence was averted because a doctor walking past noticed the condition of the woman.
The reason for manners is not just to be nice. It is to give us a practical structure to deal with each other. It is not nonsense. Manners are not superficial. They are essential. It is sad that many parents do not teach their children the importance of manners.
Children learn by watching the adults in their lives – “Thunder fire you!” “You dey craze.” I have heard a father tell his own child, “Your father!” Whether he forgot he was the father or actually not the biological father is outside the scope of this post. But you cannot be rude to your child and impolite to the adults in your life, and expect your child to turn out well-mannered. Your child will imitate your behaviour. As a parent you should act the way you want your children to act. Today, children are having such a hard job learning good manners without seeing any.
When parents highlight the importance of manners to their children, they are not doing so to make a child conform to what is no longer important nor have any bearing on a person’s life. With the level of rudeness saturating the society, a well-mannered child easily distinguishes herself from the crowd in a positive way. When a child is polite to another person, most likely the person will be polite in return. Being polite can eventually bring more good things to a child. For instance, a child who has the habit of saying “Thank you” is far more likely to continue to receive gifts than the child who does not have the habit. When the giver feels appreciated, he is motivated to do more.
I guess you have seen children who talk back at adults. The way their parents raised them most likely has a hand in that. If your parents taught you how to talk to elders, you will definitely raise your children the same way since you want your children to be well-mannered as well as responsible. But if you are one of those who talk back at adults and who is not being reprimanded for that, then you are going to raise your children to be like you. No, your children will be worse. The manners a child learns at an early age not only become a part of her but also a part of the wider world which develops a norm on how to behave to others. So, parents should properly differentiate between when a child is just being a child and when she is displaying a bad manner.
Good manners are signs of greater virtues. They provide something essential for living in the society and with them we are human and civil with others. Knowing that our fellow men were created in the image and likeness of God, it is unchristian to treat others badly.
Good manners are what make life easier and more pleasant. Exhibit them.
Godwin Nwaokike is the author of the book Growing Through Life: The Pursuit of Fulfilment. Click the image below to find out more about the book.