When Did We Lose Our Manners?


This morning I stood outside the central parking garage at Boston Logan Airport.

The chill of six am New England was biting and several of us waited for the elevator ding on the 7th floor. Our crowd grew as it appeared the elevator wasn’t fully awake either.

The doors opened and we began piling in. I paused and motioned for the two women to go first. The other men around me had decided they didn’t need to let them go first. I was raised better than that.

Now, I’ve never laid my jacket on a mud puddle, but in today’s world where you care more about the screen in front of you than the stimulation of the world around you, can’t we all strive a little harder to help those around us.

When my quirky waitress brought me breakfast, I looked her in the eye when I thanked her. As I handed my boarding pass to a gruff TSA agent I said “Good morning.” After laughing at the gate lice and entering my plane I gave our flight attendant a big smile and asked, “How is your morning going?”

Our fellow humans deserve respect, attention and manners. When did so many of you forget this?

Parents, instill this in your children through your own actions and never let them forget. Whenever I see a child not say please and thank you it makes me cringe. Every time my father would say to me, “what do you say?” It would drive me nuts as a child, but I’m a better man for it.

Lead by example. Make your parents proud. Never forget The Golden Rule.

Thank you.

  • This has been SO on my mind lately!

    I love technology and the way it gives me freedom to work from wherever, but it concerns me how all our devices and digital headspace seem to distance us from basic courtesies and kindnesses.

    As someone who works from home and spends most of her days in the company of two cats (until my daughter gets home from third grade), I take special care to pay attention to my real life interactions with other human beings.

    It takes so little to make a difference in someone’s day. Say and earnest “thank you” to your barista. Compliment the earrings of the woman at the grocery check out. Make small talk with the people in line at the bank. You can hardly imagine the impact and ripple effect of these small gestures. It’s pretty damn cool.


  • Dan Gorgone

    Great message, man. And while I haven’t traveled as much as you have, I know I’ve seen manners in effect to different degrees in the various places I’ve been. The fun part is watching how people in other parts of the world show those manners; it can make the time pleasant, even entertaining, but in the end, at least they’ve got them!

  • good morning and nice post. Havea great day.

  • This made me smile that there are still people like you in the world C.C. I was on a busy train last week and got up from my seat to ask an older woman who was standing if she’d like to sit down. She thanked me and said she was getting off at the next stop. There were two younger ladies standing in the aisle that I asked the same question to. They both declined but I heard one of them say under her breath, “you don’t hear that any more.” Made me feel good that my parents instilled manners into my life.

  • This just hits home with me too. I always try and be polite to folks and give them a nod or a smile. When a sales clerk finishes a sale and says to me “have a good day” I always respond with a smile and “You too”. They may be saying out of rote, but I’ll say it back to let them know I realize they’re a real person who might need another human to acknowledge them. You never know – that one act might turn their day from crappy to happy.

  • As one still in the parenting trenches…HERE! HERE!! It doesn’t take any more time to be polite.

  • If more people understood that you get much further in life by being nice and respectful, we’d live in an even better world. Also, as a rule of thumb, whenever I travel, I make sure to watch Louis CK’s interview on Conan titled “Everything’s Amazing, Nobody’s Happy” the night before. Hilarious commentary on flying and how good we’ve really got it.

    • Mike, I always have that URL handy for Facebook friends that complain about the in-flight WiFi or other minor tech inconvenience. Definitely puts things in perspective. “Give it a minute. It’s going to space!”

      • “You’re sitting in a chair…IN THE SKY!” 🙂

    • FAR too long since I last watched that. Thanks for the reminder. Everything he said is dead on.


  • heatherlyone

    This is so so so so important. It’s one of the reasons I moved to Peru. I got really tired of the suspicious, insular, rarely thankful people in Toronto (even though I love it there) and welcomed the warm, friendly look-you-in-the-eye people of Peru in my day to day life. We MUST lead by example. Thank you for this.

  • It takes so little to smile at people and say please and thank you when it should be required.

  • Martin James

    And this would be the same C.C. who used such impeccable manners when calling out RAGU last year?

    • Yup, same guy.

      Having manners doesn’t mean that you can’t call out things you don’t agree with.

      And, if you followed along with that you know that after the initial message calling them out on their poor choices, I wrote two follow up posts filled with ideas and improvements. I considered that very polite.

      Have a great day.

  • Amen!

  • Such a great post about our responsibilities to treat each other well! Thanks C.C.!!

  • John Heaney

    You captured precisely why I enjoyed my weekend flights with Southwest. The crews for each leg were unfailingly cheerful, greeted everyone on board as if they actually meant it, and connected with the passengers with humor and helpfulness. All the flights were full, which usually portends tense and edgy passengers and crew, but Southwest hires delightful flight crews. They may not have business class, but their crews exude class. What business couldn’t learn from them?

  • HistoryBuff

    Well, C.C. to be honest with you, that is how we Texans greet each other every day. We look people in the eye and are hospitable. We Texans WERE raised that way. Glad to see you saying something about it!

  • Courtney O’Rourke

    Thank you C.C.! I was reminded of this just last night. As I was on a call with our cable company, my husband, who was overhearing my conversation, put a post it note in front of me that said: “Thank you for your help, I really appreciate it”. As i delivered my thanks to the CS rep on the other end, the entire tone of the conversation was immediately changed for the better. So important, in all aspects of communication.

  • One time I was coming back from Toronto and I hate to admit but I outraced some people who didnt know where they were going to get to the customs line. In the process, my bag hit one of those line dividers, which caused quite a noise, and I kept going. Someone that worked at the airport looked at the couple I was ‘tailgating’ and said “welcome to Boston.” I immediately felt horrible that this was their experience of entering Boston. Sure we have a rap but I dont mean to play into it. I stop myself all the time and say ‘we will all get their eventually, doesnt matter if I am first or second’. Courtesy is something learned, it’s something observed and it’s something we need to instill within ourselves and be proud of.

    • Is it ok that I giggled a bit at this story? 🙂

  • Oh my gosh CC, where do I start? I feel the same way and experience this so often it’s frustrating. I was raised the same way as you apparently and can remember my mother’s words even now “manners cost you nothing!” She is no longer with us, but the example she set is with me every day.

    This was something that my wife and I knew we would instill in our children from the minute they were ready to learn. Thankfully I have extremely well manner children that I am proud of. However, as you’ve just shared, there’s a downside to having good manners and I’m seeing it come up more and more with my kids.

    The kids with manners are getting stomped on or taken advantage of by those that don’t have manners. More accurately, by the kids who have parents that also don’t have manners either. Example: My children know that it’s polite to take your place in line. As a parent I will gently remind either of my kids if I see them cheating with this. BUT, how do you explain to them “fairness” when they see other children push to the front and get something before them instead of taking their place in line? And why do parents not care? Several times my kids have completely missed out on some cool freebies that were being handed out simply because they got in line instead of pushing to the front. How do you explain that to smal children? I remind them that they should be proud that THEY did the right thing and that in time that will serve them well – but that’s a lot to swallow as a kid.

    Have you experienced this with your children? I don’t want to have to teach my children to be rude and impatient just to get ahead, but sometimes it feels as though that is the only way America operates. Am I the only one struggling with this and small kids?

    • I’ve run into this too and it sucks because the kids don’t understand. All they know is they lost out on something.

      But, any time it happened to us we also realized that it wasn’t a big deal in the long run and kids thankfully forget the minor stuff and move on. Usually quicker than we do as adults.

  • “…in today’s world where you care more about the screen in front of you than the stimulation of the world around you, can’t we all strive a little harder to help those around us.” That was my favorite part. Well put.

    It’s funny when I was younger my parents always made me say please and thank you. Even into my teen years. I never really “got it” until later in life. Now I say it all the time.

    Thank you for writing this.

  • I believe many people have forgotten their manners because they feel that they are always owed something. After decades of preaching that the customer is always right, we have created a culture of “me.”

    To have manners means you recognize your own selfishness but you do not allow it to dominate every action that you make. Instead you look out for those around you and you engage them, you listen to them, and you show your respect for them.

    The only way to return back to a more civilized society is to stop celebrating and placing on pedestals individuals who are crass, rude, and many times ignorant.

  • The kicker is that we get ROI from being nice. We feel better and the recipient feels better. There might even be good karma down the road waiting for us. It’s the least expensive feel-good agent in our daily choices.

  • …and then we have community leaders such as church pastors act horribly and directly cause younger people to get fired from their jobs.

    The world can be a cruel place. Thankfully you and I know right from wrong.

  • Doing things like this, engaging others, enriches your life, as it makes others feel good.

    The other night at Whole Foods I engaged the cashier in a conversation by asking how much longer he had to work. That evolved into a fun conversation about Beyoncé.

    At Market Basket the cashier gave me 50 cents off for a coupon even though the cash register told her that I didn’t buy enough. I did. She made a customer service decision to give me the 50 cents, rather than take the time to rummage through all the already bagged groceries, and keep the long line of people behind me waiting. I told her that she was doing an awesome job at customer service and we shared a smile.

    • I love talking to people while I’m checking out. I worked in grocery stores growing up, so I know how much that helps make the day go by.

      Also, always thank the person bagging your groceries. They appreciate it!

  • Funny that I am reading this today. I go on my morning walks with my Labrador and I run into an old guy that has some crazy dogs which have attacked my dog in the past.

    A few days ago when I signaled for him to rally his dogs he acted like he did not see me. Today I walked close enough to him and asked him to keep his craziest dog on a leash. That sparked an argument of him justifying that his dog was just playing (when he has bitten my dog on previous occasions).

    I lost my patience and let him know how I feel. But then I realized that it was too early to be getting all charged up. I walked the rest of my route and until I read this I was still in a pretty grouchy mood.

    Now I realize that I need to be better with my attitude with the rest of the people I interact with today.

    Thanks for the Reminder CC.

    How is your morning going?

    • Here is the thing Raul. You can only be polite for so long.

      If someone is endangering you or someone you care about (and dogs certainly count here) then you only have to be polite for a limited time and if it isn’t returned? Well that is up to you what the next step is.

      But, if someone doesn’t give back to you the same respect you gave them and takes it to another level…..that is when the manners sometimes have to end 😉

      • I have to agree with you like most of the time.

        Thanks your response made me feel better of my behavior.

  • On a related note, when you do these polite things for others, it’s nice to get an acknowledgement back. I open doors for people all the time. Often, they just walk right through without even saying a quick ‘thanks’. Or, you wave someone in the lane ahead of you over into your lane and they just come on over without giving a nice little wave. Oh well, I will continue to practice politeness and when people DO say a little thanks, it makes it feel even better.

    • lorraine mulligan ryan

      You’re still allowed to say “you’re welcome,” maybe guilting them into the “oh, thank you!” No harm in it, they surely need the practice, and maybe they’re just going through life asleep.

  • C.C., one of my favorite books is The Good Citizen’s Handbook: A Guide to Proper Behavior by Jennifer McKnight-Trontz. If I was wealthy enough, I’d buy a copy for every kid to read in school. So, hopefully, by the time they grew up we’d be overrun with delightfully courteous and respectful adults. You should check it out. I bet you’d really enjoy it.

  • lorraine mulligan ryan

    I am pleased to say that I did an informal poll at work, in retail. 100% of my customers replied to my question with either a “yes, please” or a “no, thank you.” Over a three day period. Not a “yup” or “nah” in the bunch. Yes, I looked them in the eye, and smiles. I always do. Maybe that helps.

  • People lost their manners both for the me culture Erroin Martin mentioned already and a misguided interpretation of equal rights. I’d say an unfair one too, as I would have never agreed with feminists killing courtesy and chivalry in order to get political equal treatment. Still I hear a lot of people say that we can’t expect that since we wanted equality, and a lot of women who agree and feel offended by it.