by Kimberly Anderson, Etiquette Instructor
Do you ever find yourself saying, “I can’t believe (: –) just did that,” or “Wow, that person is really rude!” Unfortunately, living the fast paced life of Orange County, you probably find yourself saying those exact words more often than you like. There’s a lot of talk these days about how crude behavior has become in society, not to mention right in our own neighborhoods. Its no surprise that you might even be saying those exact words about a close friend or family member who is, or who has been, downright rude.
We need to stop and wonder what will become of the future if we continue to have such little regard for the way we treat each other, especially those we know and love. You don’t have to look far to encounter a myriad of etiquette blunders. It seems that unruly behavior and overall bad manners have become, for the most part, the norm in society. For example, what happened to a simple, “Excuse me” when walking in front of a person who is looking for their favorite book or box of cereal? Or “Pardon me” when bumping into someone or invading their personal space? Then there are the impatient people who can’t wait in line with the rest of us and who rudely go straight to the front of the line as if it were their birthright. Also, one has to wonder about the person who decides to set up shop at Starbucks like it’s their personal office where they conduct business, including meeting with customers. Are they really that oblivious to the coffee drinking customers who are looking for a quiet retreat or a relaxed conversation with a friend? And what can be said about the cell phone addicts, other than, “Get a life,” or at least some cell phone manners. Surely they must know it’s obnoxious to use a cell phone in a restaurant, movie or a public place where people are having quiet conversations.
And how embarrassed would you be when that good friend attends your Holiday Ornament exchange party and shouts out to everyone before the exchange begins, “Had I known it was one of these stupid exchange parties, I never would have come. I hate these kinds of parties!” At first everyone thinks she’s kidding because no one is really that rude, are they? If she had kept her mouth silent and her feelings to herself, the hostess would still call her a friend today. Also, we can’t forget the endless stories of bad drivers and parking lot nightmares that confront us each day. We need to have this mind–set when driving into a parking lot: “Is it really going to matter who gets the parking spot?” Besides, a little walk never hurt any of us.
Furthermore, what can you say, except “how rude,” about the person who stands in your office doorway waiting for you to finish your telephone conversation, only to ask you some meaningless question. Don’t you feel like slamming the door on them as they eavesdrop on your conversation? As for those business owners and corporate ladder climbers who are trying to get ahead…bad manners can mean the loss of a very important client or a fast fall from that ladder. Something as simple as holding your utensils incorrectly, speaking with your mouth full of food, or not being confident in a social situation can hurt you and your company’s image in a minute. Remember, it’s one thing to be late for class while in school, but quite another in the business or even social world. Don’t keep others waiting longer then 15 minutes without a phone call to explain your tardiness. Repeated offensives will not help you win clients or keep friends for long. Put that cell phone to productive use by calling to apologize for being late.
Finally, I ask you: What has become of one of the simplest and oldest etiquette rules from years past? Yes, you guessed it, RSVP (Répondez s’il vous plâit) – in other words, “Please reply.” Why can’t people follow this easy etiquette rule? One quick phone call or even an email to say that you appreciate the invitation and that you will or will not be able to attend is all it takes. Have we become too senseless and busy to care that the hostess needs this information to plan the event? Or is it that we just don’t care? That is, of course, until we find the shoe on the other foot and we are now asking for an RSVP to our party. Don’t ignore RSVPs because you’re embarrassed or feel you need to make an excuse for why you can’t attend. Simply offer an apology that you can’t make it to the event and leave it at that. This is much more mannerly than not calling the hostess and leaving her to wonder about your plans.
It’s important that we never forget that good manners will always matter. Though many of the old etiquette rules of years past might seem silly or out–dated, remember they were established so that people could live in the world together with some level of peace, kindness and love. Etiquette is more than a set of rules. It’s about connecting with and respecting our fellow human beings and helping to make our small corner of the world a better place. b