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Manners cost nothing


Manners cost nothing

A simple ‘hello’ is not too much to ask for. A sunny ‘good morning’ is generated with just a few facial muscles and uses fleeting eye contact. Hardly difficult.

But the search is on for these, which seem to be lost. Good manners have gone the way of the dodo, washed away like a germ drenched in hand sanitiser.

The girl in the local newsagent who seems bored and grumpy. The Aldi checkout operator who is robotic and rushed. A lad who walks in partway through a presentation with head down. A woman who answers her phone halfway through another conversation without apology.

Is this the best we can do?

It would be easy to blame the past year, where confinement and various kinds of COVID-driven limitations have kept people apart or in isolated groups, but the Sunshine Coast has only been grazed by COVID.

As an acquaintance said this week, the people of the Sunshine Coast should be skipping and jumping, so healthy is our economy and dreamy our lifestyle.

Of course, in a COVID world, the need for manners has ballooned.

Covering our mouth when we cough is a matter of public health as well as courtesy and not standing too close is a rule, not just polite.It is not old-fashioned to expect or extend good manners – and I don’t mean curtsies and hand flourishes should make a comeback.

It’s the pleases and thank yous that are MIA. Eye contact. Listening. Waiting your turn.

I travel by bus to work and am stunned at how few people greet the driver on pick up, much less say ‘thank you’ as they disembark.

A driver takes the traffic stress for us and stays alert as we read or watch or interact virtually.

They get us where we want to go at a prescribed time – and they are not worth a simple hello?

It seems awfully churlish and oddly remiss.

The drivers must be used to it, because they don’t bat an eyelid. I feel the affront for them.

The art of conversation appears also to be on the skids.

It seems that many people are waiting for their turn to speak rather than actively listening.

It would be easy to blame the young and shake our heads sagely about how the world has gone to hell in a handbasket because of all that screen time and immediate gratification, but oldies are often their own kind of gruff and rude.

That so many people are isolated in our community makes the dearth of real dialogue – even in a surface, social nicety kind of way – particularly sad.

It is said good manners open doors that the best education cannot and that they are always in fashion – along with kindness.

We need them. They set us apart from the other animals, hallmarks of civility and courtesy. Good manners make others feel seen, valued and respected.

And they cost absolutely nothing.

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Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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