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Thread: Etiquette

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Etiquette



    There’s nothing particularly new about boorish behavior, but it sometimes seems that contemporary society’s emphasis on individuality and the diminished significance placed on formality have opened the door to encouraging more boorish behavior.

    There may be a tendency to think of etiquette as a trite pursuit (e.g. should the salad fork be placed to the left of the shrimp fork or left of the table fork? Oh dear, which is it?!), but some maintain manners are the bedrock of a civil society. The notion that certain proper forms of behavior should be engaged in is interesting from a sociological perspective: who determines what is ‘proper’, that is, under what authority is any social convention adopted? Do you peruse a Ms. Manners or Emily Post book when confronted with questions concerning etiquette?

    It’s usually presumed that all formalized behaviors are premised on a general wish to extend consideration or good-will towards others, but there’s more going on than that. Frequently these codified behaviors are veiled ways of reinforcing social orders/world views. Take for instance the act of a man opening a door for a woman; on the surface it would appear the act of opening a door is a straightforward example of the aforementioned goodwill/consideration. The fact that it falls along gender lines complicates matters, though. The unspoken premise here is that women are assumed to be the weaker gender and therefore require males to open doors for them. In point of fact, it’s extremely doubtful that any man doing so would intend this (and none but the most militant feminist is likely to take offense), but the pedigree of this particular convention can be readily traced to the medieval codes of courtly behavior where this worldview existed in spades.

    I also do not intend to suggest that simply because a proscribed action falls along gender lines it is inherently wrong either. Walking a woman out to their car at night, for example, has a pragmatic basis – a male (statistically speaking) is more likely to possess greater upper body strength and more likely to be able to fend off or deter a would-be attacker (who, again, is statistically speaking, probably male too).

    Our technology appears to be outpacing our social responses and it seems we’re lacking universally-held conventions of behavior where certain electronic devices are concerned; cell phones, email, tweeting, and texting come readily to mind.

    Are there any etiquettes surrounding electronic devices that you’d like to see universally adopted (e.g. don’t talk on your cell phone in the supermarket line…unless you’re me and you forgot to get something)? Are there any etiquettes you wouldn’t mind seeing going the way of whale bone corsets? Where do you think a lack of manners is most evident today in our society?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    I think the lack of manners today is most evident in vernacular speech patterns - specifically the rampant use of swearing and cussing in casual public conversation. It's widespread, from the gradeschool playground to the White House. Now I don't particularly care if people cuss in private conversation. People have done that for all eternity. I don't even care, really, that they cuss at all. But by casually slipping around terms that are supposed to be used for effect in select circumstances, they're downgrading the potential power of speech, in essence dumbing down popular culture, and at times even creating a nuisance.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    I can't stand when people are iphoning/blackberrying (usually texting or emailing) during meetings which they need to be engaged in. The reason we need to meet is to bring full attention to one matter/project. I don't bring my phone into a meeting unless a) I'm expecting an important phone call or b) its a long meeting (more than one-two hours) in which I may not need pay attention the entire time (like our development review meetings).

    I dont like when people talk on cell phones in certain public places such as the lobby of businesses or counters where other business is being conducted. Its very distracting.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  4. #4
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    The cursing thing is interesting to me, too. One observation I have made is that for many of my peers that cussed like sailors, the onset of children has changed their free use of "inappropriate" words tremendously. And its totally been a product of self-policing. So, for folks who seemed to be bucking convention by injecting more casual language in places their parents would certainly say it didn't belong, the idea that this would negatively impact the next generation seems to carry a lot of weight.

    This suggests to me that the idea of manners is perhaps less dead than one might think.

    For me personally, and this is something I also tell my kids, manners are about knowing when its ok to say certain things and when it is not. Its also about being savvy about the company you are in and acting in a way that is appropriate to them.

    I curse and wear my hat inside (well not that much, but I'm making a point - I don't really wear hats much) if I'm with my friends at a bar or a party. But if I am with someone's grandparents, or even parents, I never do that. Similarly, I will hold open a door for an older lady who I think probably expects that because that is the context in which she grew up. With my peers, not so much, partly because I think it could be perceived as sexist or insulting, partly because I view us all as equals who can take care of ourselves. Similarly, I tend to be more formal (or at least less foul-mouthed) if I am hanging out with someone from another cultural setting, just because I tend to think that most of the rest of the world is more formal than the US - except maybe Australia...

    So, I think context is key to the use of manners and I do think being able to read the differences and act accordingly has a lot to do with social acceptance and success (in the sense of being a trusted individual). And my general rule is to err on the side of caution. I always call my friends' parents as Mr. and Mrs. even though I am 41. They can always say "Call me Frank," but its a lot harder if you first call someone Frank for them to say "Call me Mr. Jones"

    But all of what I just said is based on my being brought up with "the rules" and then drifting from and questioning them. So what about the next generation? Will they even know the rules enough to stray from them? Or is there an entirely new set of rules and etiquette being "drafted" right now that they will operate within?
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  5. #5
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I can't even count how many times I have been hit by a door because I think someone would hold it for me and didn't. It seems to me that these little civilities are what make us human. I think most of our manners have left us due to how in a hurry we are these days.

    Technology has shined a light on old issues that have been pretty well fixed by our culture as most people understand it is rude to talk in a library or loudly in a small room. Yet people do not use this logic towards their mobile devices. People's IPOD is so loud that I can hear it. They yell at their cell phone. They let their phone ring the most annoying ring so everyone can hear it.

    We live in a much more "me" time. Thoughtfulness isn't a high priority, nor is pomp and civility.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Universally adopted - If you are using a self-scan check-out, wait for the person in front of you to finish packing their items before you start scanning your order. A huge annoyance to me is when the person behind me begins their order while mine is still all over the counter.

    This presents another reason for manners - common sense. It's going to be a shame sometime when I accidentally add someone's groceries to my packages. I hope it's steak.

    People are so wrapped up in their own activities and self-importance that they are pushing themselves into other folks' time and space. Maybe some perceive being polite in everyday situations as a sign of weakness.

    Honestly, when you are considerate of someone, you are usually rewarded with consideration, and things go smoothly. Isn't that the purpose of consideration?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    I still use the common ma'm and sir and was recently told by a certain person "don't call me ma'm!" My smart@ss reply almost came out, but I sure thought it (well you're not a sir).

    I'm with you as well hink, holding the door if someone is right behind you should be done so it doesn't slam into you. (is this the first thing we agree on hink?)

    It just the self-absorbed society we are unfortunately becoming.
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

  8. #8
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Where is the poll?

    I was raised by Mrs. Manners. As a result I eat with the right silverware when confronted with a complex table setting, send thank you notes/emails promptly, generally try to be courteous to others, and not be an animal. I hold open doors for old people and for people that are right behind me or if they have full hands, and don't invade other people's space physically or electronically. The words please and thank you get you further down the road than a sense of entitlement will and yes they are still very necessary. If I am at a place where I am being waited on or helped and the person has a name tag I make sure to use their name. I think hand held electronic devices have been both a blessing and a curse. I was at a performance in January and some dolt forgot to turn his phone off after intermission and it rang, thankfully between pieces, and the performer gave him a stare and said to the audience "Please make sure you turn your phones off. People should learn that it's ok for you to be out of reach for two hours! You'll be fine too. Trust me on this!". It was great.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  9. #9
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planit View post
    is this the first thing we agree on hink?)
    I wasn't aware that we disagreed that much. I will have to look back at some posts. You have made me aware of my disagreements now, and therefore I will be more disagreeable...

    Last thing I agree with you though is sir and ma'am. I don't exactly think that it is necessary, but I think it is proper. If you meet someones parents, I think the first inclination should be to address them by Sir and Ma'am. I think this giving of importance is something we should all do until said person says they don't need it. With age comes wisdom and importance. These things are earned over time. Give people the credit they deserve...
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

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