Wednesday, September 8, 2010

War Story Wednesday: Gentlemen VS Modern Discourtesy

In these modern times, with facebook and twitter serving as the means of communication for many young people, I worry about common courtesy going by the wayside. The symptoms are everywhere to be seen: people don't RSVP to events in advance, because who knows what kind of tantalizing text message might invite them to something better at the eleventh hour? Grown men have feeble handshakes and avert their eyes when being introduced because most of their introductions happen electronically. People don't know how to conduct themselves at a fine restaurant or a dinner party, because most of their meals are wolfed down hastily whilst watching television or checking their favorite blog.

Now, I won't claim to be an expert on these matters, nor will I attempt to outline all of the myriad rules and customs of courtesy. But I can offer some tips, and generally admonish the public to be more courteous to one another. So here is some helpful advice, bits I've learned from my father, Better Living and her cultured friends, and the Marine Corps:

  • When meeting someone new or when you run into someone you haven't seen in a while, firmly shake their hand (but don't crush it; this does not demonstrate your manliness, it makes you an ass), and always look them in the eye. I cannot stress this enough; you should always look people in the eye. It not only displays your confidence, but shows your respect and that you are mentally present and engaging with the person.
  • When you are going to an event that has been planned in advance, for god's sake turn your phone off and participate with the others present for the duration of the event. If you have to have your phone around, for an emergency or some such, keep it on vibrate. If you receive other calls, ignore them, and if your important call comes through politely excuse yourself and take your call in private. I don't care that everyone else is texting at the dinner table or in the middle of conversation; this is incredibly rude.
  • Never point at people. It makes them uncomfortable, probably because it is a dead giveaway that you are talking about them to someone else. If you really need or desperately want to identify someone else from a ways off, gesture with your whole, open, flat hand. Get your hand ready to karate chop, then, with your palm facing up, sweep your arm in the direction of what you are trying to point out. I know this is a minute detail, but seriously, don't point.
  • When someone goes out of their way to do something nice for you, hand-write them a thank-you note. Mail it through the postal service if possible, or hand deliver it otherwise. They went out of their way to help you, so you should go out of your way and go beyond an email to say thank you. A good guide to when and what to write can be found here.
Doing these simple things will get you started being a more courteous and thoughtful person. People will notice.

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