24 February 2010

Manners Maketh Man (and Woman)

When did good manners go out of fashion?

I've written before about people who can't keep nasty comments to themselves and inconsiderate drivers. People are just as rude with shopping trolleys, the world needs to get out of their way. We jostle for position in queues or even - and this does happen, even in reserved Britain - push in!

When did we stop thinking of others and start thinking about ourselves?

I blame the television. Well, at least I think I do. Perhaps it just holds up a mirror to society and what you see on television is a true reflection of the way things really are. I hope not. Either way it is a big influence.

Look at Big Brother. When it started it was a fascinating social experiment. There were accompanying psychology programmes. It soon changed into, not only a freak show, but also a display of appalling bad behaviour.

In 2006 we met Nikki Grahame (photographed above). She was an adult but displayed the manners and self-control of a toddler. She had tantrums. She screamed and stamped her foot if she didn't get her own way. I'd never seen such lack of restraint in a grown up.

The following year we saw Chanelle Hayes. She copied Nikki's character traits and mannerisms as if they were normal standards of behaviour. This was the same series where we had the self-obsessed, argumentative Charley Uchea. Were these people vilified for their behaviour or did they negatively influence a generation of impressionable youngsters?

In 2008 (the last time I watched Big Brother) we saw Alexandra De-Gale threaten and bully her way to ejection from the series.

This was the first time I'd noticed the new obsession with telling it like it is or telling it straight. All of a sudden contestants were being unbelievably rude to each other's faces. Of course telling the truth is important, but where is the consideration for people's feelings? Since when did it become important to tell the truth all the time to complete strangers?

The internet makes it easy to say what you think, hiding behind your screen. You can even be rude to someone you have never met via the medium of anonymity. You can hurt someone's feelings to the point where they end up in tears. Would you make the same hurtful comments to their face? Maybe, but probably not.

I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating because I try to live my life by this rule, if you've got nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. Or at least dress it up a bit. Good friends can gently tell you the truth without hurting your feelings. My good friends are considerate. My good friends have manners.

Am I being old fashioned and hankering for times gone by? Am I an old fuddy-duddy?

Possibly, but I really do believe that while it's nice to be important, it's more important to be nice. This is how I'll be raising my children.

This post was written as part of the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I chose prompt no.1: What is your personal motto?


  1. Well said.

    Although I haven't watched Big Brother since Paul and Helen, so I can't comment on that.

  2. Well said & I agree with you. I always bite my tongue rather than say something negative despite those around me who do not.

    I've seen an advert on TV recently which is on a very similar vein. Everyone snarling at each other as they walk along the street.

    Oh and I've never watched Big Brother!!

  3. Our family motto is 'be kind'. And that includes not saying anything if you can't say anything nice. So no, I don't think you are being a fuddy-duddy, I think you are teaching your children something really important :)

  4. You are definitely teaching your children something important! Hopefully, there are loads of us doing the same with our children to counteract this trend. It drives me batty! Good for you!

  5. I've never watched those shows, they sound hideous. Maybe some people never get over being three? I'm all for good manners, kindness and politeness and strive to be this way. I am myself quite think skinned though, and can be a bit blunt with others by accident, often realizing only hours or days later that I said something insensitive. I then obsess about it and apologize. Will try and teach my kids to be better!

  6. Here, here, I do not watch that drivel and I make sure the boys have manners if nothing else

  7. if you are an old fuddy duddy then i am too. I haven't watched big brother since Jade was in it but i know exactly what you mean. you see it a lot in the supermarket or in carparks. People are just rude. and why do they think if they start the sentence with 'I'm sorry but' or 'nothing personal but' it makes it okay to say some terrible things?

    Grr, don't get me started on people and their manners...

  8. I completely agree with you about manners. Lack thereof is one of my biggest pet hates. I was brought up to be pleasant and polite, respecting at all times, the feelings of others. I don't think we can be the only ones. Most of the people I know also have manners (although i think I do have massively high expectations of other people's manners!) but when a lack of manners is displayed it makes my blood boil. After all, how much does it take to be polite?

    I don't have children yet but when I do have them I know I will bring them up to be respectful and polite, with excellent manners - I don't care if it's old fashioned, it's just right!

  9. Abso-bluming-lutely (see how I toned that down to be polite ;)...)

    I also hate the justification that rude people often make: "Oh I just tell it like it is, that's just me, I'm a straight talker" as if brutal, often hurtful honesty is a good thing or that expecting people to censor themselves is unreasonable.

    I am all for honesty and telling it like it is, but in a way that is respectful and considerate of people's feelings. That's not old-fashioned, it's just common decency.

    I shall be bringing Kai up not to be afraid to speak his mind and to go against the grain, but always with respect, empathy and with consideration of other people's point of view.

    Great post Sandy! (as always!!) x

  10. Not old fashioned at all. I talk to my daughter and my pupils about good manners, being nice to each other and not saying hurtful things. I am heartened to find that there are still lots of people with good manners out there; I do encounter them when I'm out and about. We just need to make sure the next generation keep it up!

  11. I agree with you totally - I HATE bad manners and inconsideration to others. So many of my 12 yr old daughter's friends are allowed to watch Big Brother and have done so for a good few years and I think it's disgraceful. The behaviour displayed by many of the contestants is not something I'd want my kids to think was normal or acceptable.

  12. Can't stand bad manners and I worry about the influence of all these programmes on kids - other people's kids as we don't let our 10 year old watch, natch. Some parents really do lack parenting skills or is it just common sense? It's a worrying world out there for we parents, eh?

  13. Couldn't agree more with you and I stopped watching BB years back partly because of this. Well said. :)

  14. I have not much more to add that i very much agree , both online and off it can be a problem . And yes i am also an ex bb watcher because of it

  15. Hear hear! I agree, and have only this lunchtime explained the concept of politeness to my three year old (he asked!) The world would be a much pleasanter place to live in if everyone was polite.

  16. I hate bully's/bullying/rudeness/impoliteness with a passion!! Know need for anyone to display such horrid qualities!
    It makes me sad that I cant shelter Oli from all these things but I will try my best to teach him the opposite so he knows just how to reply to these kind of people - ' Thank you ' . :) xx

  17. I try and tell my boys, if you don't have something nice to say then why say it if it's going to hurt someone's feelings. Great post!

  18. Sally, thank you. My cultural references are rather limited and a bit out of date, I don't watch much television!

    Slim Lens, oh yes, I've seen that advert, it's so true. You've done well to avoid ten years of BB!

    Ella, that's a lovely family motto to have, really lovely :-)

    Gigi, I hope we're the silent majority, choosing to bring up our children to have manners. :-)

    Insomniac Mummy, thank you :-)

  19. Geeky Mummy, I can be quite crass sometimes and say totally the wrong thing. Being sorry and trying to do better is a good thing :-)

    The Mad House, I knew we'd agree on this! :-)

    Heather, oh I know, 'I'm not being funny, but...'. It's just an excuse for rudeness. I didn't mean to wind you up, Heather - deep breaths! :-)

    Potential Mummy, I like that: 'it doesn't matter if it's old-fashioned, it's just right'. So true. :-)

    Josie, thank you. I think 'telling it like it is' shows a complete lack of respect. I hope it is confined to the television because that has an off button! There are ways to make a point without making the other person feel bad. I'm sure you'll do an excellent job of teaching Kai how to express himself - by leading by example. x

  20. Working Mum, definitely, I just hope there are enough of us! :-)

    Gaelikaa, thank you :-)

    Muummmmeeeee, oh that seems far too young to be watching BB. I hope their parents are explaining that these are badly behaved, extreme characters? *sigh*

    Diney, it is. What is this enormous responsibility have we taken on?!

    Mari, hi and thank you :-)

  21. Laura, thank you. Yes, I couldn't stand it any more!

    Victoria, it would. Life would be so much more pleasant (especially on the roads)!

    Emma, me too! Hopefully there are enough of us who care about manners to teach our children there is another way. x

    If I Could Escape, thank you. It so simple, I wish more of us cared enough to teach our children manners :-)

  22. Too true Sandy! I'm gonna sound really old now saying this but I can't abide the way some of the younger generation behave and everyone looks on like it's acceptable! I see things sometimes and catch myself thinking My god if I'd behaved like that I'd have been in so much trouble! We are raising SC to be polite, have manner and be thoughtful - I admit its hard sometimes to get an almost 5 yr old to be this way but you have to persevere otherwise whats the point? And don't even get me started on the rudeness of internet trolls... the most cowardly form of behaviour to be rude whilst being anonymous! I feel so much better now for that rant! (Do you think I've overdone the caffeine this morning?) x

  23. I enjoyed reading it . You are true about hurtful comments. I agree with you, at every prospective!

  24. Well its nice to see that some people are holding old fashioned values. It costs nothing to be polite. I've never watched BB, not my sort of thing at all but it makes you wonder if the contestants behave that way so they get picked to join in. See I even want to give them the benefit. But I bet most of them when faced with the same behaviour from others are more upset than they admit to.

  25. This is exactly the reason that I can't watch BB... love the sleb version because (on the whole) they are more aware of how they are coming across.

    It's a funny dichotomy though; we're brought up to be honest and tell the truth at all times- which can lead to priceless, and mortifying, hand over mouth moments, and then we're taught to modify the truth in order to 'be polite'.

    FWIW I agree with being thoughtful about others' feelings and part of that is the ability to self-moderate. But, if someone asks me for 'my honest opinion' I will give it, even if I know it will be hard to hear. The alternative is the all too common situation where circles within circles are all talking behind each other's backs. For every open word spoken, there's a raft of private emails, phone calls and DMs saying "can you believe that???".

    So no to unnecessary rudeness,and yes to sensitivity but I do like to know where I am with people and I'd rather be upfront that snide...


  26. Not a fudy dudy - I reckon that in coming years it won't be class, wealth or education that will be the societal divider but manners, either you have them or you don't. And sadly lot of parents aren't raising their children to have them

  27. Manners are so important! Well done for ensuring your boys will grow up to be polite young men (I sound about 90 here!)

  28. That Girl 39, hopefully there are enough of us that think certain behaviour is unacceptable. Totally agree re trolls. I think you got the coffee level spot on! x

    Melroxx, thank you :-)

    Winnibriggs, I think you're absolutely right. The ones that shout the loudest in people's faces surely can't like that being done to them? I hope your enjoying blogging :-)

    Peabee72, as we discussed on Twitter, I hadn't considered the impact of snide bitching. It is as hurtful to talk behind people's backs as it is to tell them exactly how you feel to their face, particularly if they haven't asked for your honest opinion. Openness and sensitivity are vital :-)

    Muddling Along, interesting point, I was discussing this with Andy today. We couldn't come up with a solution!

    Baking Mad Mama, if you sound 90, then so do I! :-)

  29. It's nice to be nice and it doesn't cost anything! I don't understand why more people can't just hold their tongues! Couldn't ever get into Big Brother it did my head in! Manners maketh the woman!

  30. Irish Mammy, you're so right. It costs nothing to be nice :-)


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