One of the overwhelming memories that has stayed with me from my childhood is that of my parents, grandparents and teachers constantly teaching me and reminding me about manners. In those days, manners meant saying please and thank you, hello and goodbye, and if you were a child, being seen but not heard. Maybe it was my perception or maybe I missed a trick, but I grew up thinking that manners were a one-way thing always aimed to please or appease another more superior person than myself, and certainly not something I could expect from others, never mind demand!
The way in which these teachings were delivered was preachy and imposed, in other words “do as I say or else….” So is it any wonder that for most of my contemporaries, myself included, manners became a task, a chore, something that was neither enjoyable nor natural, something that we had to do or else….
As I grew up and I began to understand the importance of manners, I also began to observe how some people have manners in abundance whilst others don’t. I also began to see a pattern, a common thread which showed me that some people associate manners with weakness and inferiority and they spend their whole lives avoiding displaying signs of good manners in front of people outside of their ‘circle of trust’.
This became crystal clear about ten years ago when I worked for a large corporate and I observed regular instances where colleagues walked straight past me as I held a door open for them without so much as a glance of acknowledgement, where my hello or good morning as we passed each other along a corridor was met with a grunt or half-a-glance. The shocking thing is that these people were senior managers, bosses, company directors and the very people whose decisions might affect my future as well as the future of colleagues, clients and our immediate families. How could that be? Was it because they needed to distance themselves from colleagues in order to create a wall of fear so that they could hold on to their position? Was it laziness? Was it fear of making friends in the workplace? Or was it because they were so preoccupied with the demands of their roles that they simply didn’t have the mental capacity to engage in common manners?
Being a team leader, a boss, a company director who doesn’t display good manners towards his or her colleagues for whatever reason is in itself a weakness and one of those human traits that goes some way towards explaining the inequalities, injustices and conflict in the workplace. I found it profoundly disturbing and at the same time enlightening to realise that being present, being aware of self as well as others is a strength and a precious human quality which actually lies at the heart of self-actualisation and real happiness.