WHERE HAVE ALL THE MANNERS GONE?
I have been thinking about manners a lot lately. I actually think about manners quite a lot in general as I am forever amazed by how few people really have any, and how for the most part they are diminishing by the nanosecond.
I was brought up at a time when, and by someone who felt that manners, good manners were extremely important. It was drilled into me at an early age that the thank you note was up there with clean underwear in terms of things one should never forget.
And I must say it has stuck with me all these years. In fact the last time I actually spoke to my mother she yelled at me that my ex had better manners than I do (not true) and I was white trash…. I hung up the phone and that was four years ago and the last time I uttered a word to her.
There are many things one can accuse me of, many, but bad manners and being white trash???
But once again I veer off topic– I was on manners and where are they?
The thank you note – as in written, on paper, by hand, with a stamp or hand delivered feels like it’s gone the way of the Wells Fargo Pony. I find this sad as I like nothing more than receiving and actually writing thank you notes. And I feel for certain occasions and gestures it is still the gold-standard way to show appreciation.
I not only write them and I will tell you when in a second, but I remember everyone who actually sends me one. Not only do I remember I keep them , I have decades of them stashed away in bright orange boxes in my closet.
There is no question that the email has moved in and taken the place of the note in most situations and one does not want to kick a gift thank you in the mouth but there are certain times when people should take the effort one step further. But it’s still a thank you and acceptable, it’s just not a note and sometimes a note is what’s in order.
But then there are the masses and masses of people who never say thank you for anything and these are the ones who really floor me.
Last week I had a rather large batch of DVDs delivered to various people I know. Some I was expecting (not a good idea) to be thanked by and others I figured I just would not hear from.
Oddly the person I was convinced I wouldn’t hear from was the first to say thank you. Sometimes people do surprise you, proving that jumping to conclusions is not always a good idea. This is something I need a lesson in as I hold gold medals and world records in conclusion jumping.
Another person did not get back to me right away, but took the time to call this a.m. and tell me they were out of the office on Friday and thanked me profusely. This is someone very busy and this is a situation where an email would totally suffice, but they took the time to explain the delay and pick up the phone. Very nice manners and I will remember that. A phone call will often take the place of a note and always over an email in certain situations. This DVD thing an email was really all the I ever expected from anyone and quite frankly probably under the circumstances all I would do.
The others: not a word, I will remember that too.
One doesn’t do things to be thanked and the altruists, the real ones say you just do things and expect nothing back. But I think a thank you is an important ritual for everything, from when someone holds open the door to any gesture of kindness on the part of another.
While I am not alone I am in the minority.
And I might add everyone of those who thanked me were over forty. I think the younger generation for the most part has not been taught the importance of thank you, I think they are a part of the entitled generation not to mention they communicate in monosyllables.
I was just talking to Sarah in the office, a young woman with impeccable manners who said the problem with kids is they don’t even know how to actually write any more as all they do is type. The thought of sitting down with pen and paper and actually putting gratitude into hand written words and sent off is so far from their sense of reality not to mention their skill set. That is horrifying.
I will say I make my girls sit down and write notes. I also tell my writing students and kids when I lecture on careers to write a note, not an email every time they go on a job interview. It may take more time and it may feel old fashioned but even if you don’t get the job, people will remember the person who took the time to write the note that said thank you for taking the time to meet with me and whatever else is appropriate for the situation. And even if they don’t get the job at that moment, they might get one the next time it comes available. Also, if it gets down to them and one other person, chances are the one who went the extra mile will get the job. I know I have hired people based on that.
But again, I’m not saying manners are a means to an end here. They are an attitude, a personality trait and a way to go through life.
There are many, many examples of when an email will suffice. But there are many examples of when it does not.
I think if someone invites you to their home for a party or gathering and they are not a super close friend, then a note is in order. I personally think a written note.
If they are one of your closeset friends and it’s just hanging out and having “family dinner” an email is perfect. Lunches – emails. Things people get for free and pass on to you – emails are fine.
Twice this week we had close friends over for simple supper, both Mamaface and our friends Maureen and Jerry and these are some of our dearest friends. Maureen sent an thank you from her blackberry in the car going home and Mamaface wrote a lovely email the very next morning or maybe that night, as she goes to sleep later than I do.
Those were perfect; I would never expect more.
But we have had people to sit down dinners, people we don’t know well and never heard a word from. I remember these things… forever.
I actually have a policy, if we have you over more than three times and are never thanked or reciprocated, you’re off the list. It’s standard practice unless it’s a business thing. Sometimes in business one has to overlook certain things, but overlooking and forgetting are not the not one in the same.
And speaking about business I work in Hollywood, the RUDE capital of the world. I think you can take all the manners in that town and they won’t fit in a cup. But that is a different story all together.
I think if someone sends you a gift, birthday, anniversary, wedding, or just because, you should jolly well write a note.
I sent a very thoughtful gift to someone last week, something I had their name put on no less and got a two line email back. Doesn’t cut it…. Bad manners in my book all the way. And this is someone I know knows better.
And trust me, it’s not just me who feels this way, like many topics I pop the lid on, when I start asking around, what do you think of the average person’s manners today? Most people respond with “Shocking, bad, horrible and don’t get me started on the kids.”
The thing is it doesn’t take much time and it makes all the difference to people.
And you don’t have to go out and spend a fortune on engraved paper. If money is an issue you can print up amazing things with the computer.
It’s just the idea someone took the time to sit down and write you a note.
I have a few friends who don’t use computers and the only way I can communicate with them other than the phone is through letters. And I actually love this. I try and write to Blake’s mother at least once or twice a month. It’s a great way of keeping in touch.
I’m not going to beat this horse to death. But next time someone does do something nice for you – say thank you one way or another….I’m not the only one with a memory or who has certain standards.
And if the situation calls for it, sit your butt down and write a note.
It says a lot about you and will make them really happy.