By Rebecca Brown, Divine Caroline
As I crammed myself onto a crowded train this morning, I noticed there was a very pregnant woman standing near me, jammed in tightly and hanging on for dear life. I looked at the passengers sitting in the seats that are supposed to be surrendered to the elderly, physically challenged, and other people who need to sit, and all of them were listening to iPods. Most of them were also texting or reviewing email, one person was reading on a Kindle, and two people were watching movies. Not one of them even looked up; everyone was too absorbed in what they were listening to, reading, or watching to even notice the protruding belly and flushed face of the pregnant passenger.
Over the past few years, there have been countless discussions on minding our manners within our new modes of communication. Is it rude to text someone and ask him on a date? When is it appropriate to forward an email? Do we befriend someone on a social networking site we’ve only met once?
But while we’ve been debating the dos and don’ts of technology etiquette, it appears that many of us have forgotten some of the old school manners that our parents, grandparents, and teachers taught us–manners that have nothing to do with a keyboard or a monitor, but have everything to do with the long-forgotten Golden Rule. Maybe technology has eroded our brains so much that we can never go back to those golden days, but there are a few simple courtesies that I’d like to see make a comeback.
Hold doors for people.
This doesn’t just mean men holding doors for women–anyone who has the arm strength to hold a door for someone should. Holding a door shows that we’re paying attention to what’s going on around us and that we care about others even if they’re a complete stranger. That little bit of awareness also helps take our minds off the busy, crappy day we might be having. Plus, it’s a nice and unexpected way to pay it forward, kind of like smiling at a stranger. Hold the door for someone and someone else will hold it for you later.
Give up seats.
Lizzie Post, great-great granddaughter of Emily Post and author of How Do You Work This Life Thing?, says this is one practice she’d like to see happen more often. “Giving up your seat to someone is so easy. Even when people don’t accept your offer, I think it’s nice to get up and stay standing so they know you’re sincere. The more that we become the good example, the more it will catch on.”
Most of us were taught that it’s good manners to give up our seat to the elderly, pregnant, and physically challenged. But if we pay attention on trains, buses, in waiting areas, and other places where people stand, we might notice someone else outside those categories who could also use a seat–like someone carrying a bulky box or a heavy load of groceries. Common sense should prevail; if you see a situation where you think you’d prefer to sit, it’s a good idea to offer your seat.
Mind your telephone manners.
Our chief etiquette concern back in the “olden” days of telephones was remembering to write down a message when someone called. Now that we can take our phones anywhere and use them to do scores of things beyond just making telephone calls, our problems have spiraled out of control. Obnoxious ringtones, picking up calls in public places, sending a text message when a call would be more appropriate, and subjecting innocent bystanders to inappropriate conversations are just a few common telephone missteps.
But Post says that many of our phone snafus could be corrected if we’d follow one simple rule. “Excusing yourself to take a phone call in a private place is something I’d like to see more of. We’re so used to people being on the phone now that this isn’t a common practice anymore.” But what if we we’re in a place where we can’t step out to take a call? Post recommends to keep it brief and to keep the conversation appropriate. “Making plans is okay,” she says. “[But] if you’re gossiping, talking badly about someone, or saying something inappropriate, those should be closed-door conversations.”