Jay Rifenbary

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Manners – A Reminder for Young and Old Alike

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What does it mean to be mannerly? Manners are defined in the “New Oxford American Dictionary” as “polite or well-bred social behavior”, and polite is defined as “having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people.” As a society have we lost an understanding of the important significance in being mannerly towards one another? Are we too self-centered or self-absorbed with our own agendas that we carelessly disregard our behavior towards others? What mannerly path are our youth on, and what is the exemplifying trend that we as parents and adults display to our young? There is a persuasive thought that we may have lost the societal battle in creating a citizenry that is mutually respectful and considerate. I believe the battle is not lost, and it is time for all of us to initiate a resurgence in reinforcing the manners that we expect from our children and one another.

It was not long ago in my local mall, where I witnessed a young boy being disciplined by his mother in which the boy turned away from his mother, lifted his arm, directed it towards her with his palm open, and stated, “talk to the hand”. Upon hearing the exchange, I reacted like Kramer walking through the door into Seinfeld’s apartment, with that bodily twitching motion, and stunned surprise. Subsequently, to my chagrin, the mother dismissed the behavior as it being the norm, and not worth committing any effort in correcting the behavior. I will share with all of you if either of my children had ever told me to “talk to the hand” they would have been escorted out of the mall by me, taken home and disciplined, resulting in a considerable loss of privileges.

The common courtesies of “thank you”, “please” and “your welcome” should never be neglected. Small acts of kindness such as opening a door for someone, or the chivalrous behaviors we as men used to do for women should not be forgotten. Whether it be pulling out a chair to assist in the sitting process, or stand up when ladies excuse themselves from the table. You may think that is old fashioned, out of date, and not necessary, but how nice it feels to be treated with a degree of respect and politeness, and how appreciated it is. You don’t think a few relationship bonus points aren’t being accumulated when you display courtesies? The fact is being polite and displaying manners is the right thing to do. Whether someone responds or not is irrelevant but it should not deter us from continuing to set the appropriate example.

Additionally, there have been many instances where I do not turn a blind eye to disrespect, and have corrected inappropriate responses from young people and even adults; and informed them their disrespect and lack of manners are not acceptable. Whether my corrective behavior is adhered to or not, at least others will know where I stand, and what is expected in regard to being mannerly.

Manners also pertain to a very important aspect in initiating a relationship with others both personally and professionally. The old cliché that an individual only has one chance to make a good first impression is as important and truthful today as it ever was. That first impression is key in establishing a positive rapport with others. For example, an initial interview for potential employment, and the acquiring of that employment will be significantly influenced by the manners displayed by the interviewee. In addition, how one communicates effectively is also congruent with portraying mannerly behavior. Answering yes, instead of yeah, articulating your thoughts without every other word being ah, like, um, you know, etc, has a huge impact in how that person is perceived. As a member of my local Congressional District Service Academy Selection Committee, the interview process of perspective candidates provides a clear illustration of the impact manners, courtesy, and respectful communication has on the board’s impression of those candidates. Let us all take the time to be more cognizant of how mannerly, or not mannerly we are to one another, and the example we set for our children. Our little darlings are not always so darling, and educating them in understanding the important role of manners, and holding them accountable, should not be diminished by societal acceptance of behaviors that are disrespectful towards others.



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