Why Manners are Important

Succeed with Please and Thank You

“The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners 
without seeing any.”
Fred Astaire

While you may not have heard of Fred Astaire or his quote above, he was a gentleman in every sense of the word.  In a nutshell, Astaire was one of the biggest stars of his day. He was one of the greatest dancers of all time in film and on Broadway stages, and was also famous as an actor and singer. Yes, he lived long before your time, but he had some important things to say about manners and personal conduct.

Fred Astaire was also well known for some of his other traits. He was always well dressed, immaculately groomed, and was ever a gentleman. And, important for us here, he felt strongly about the importance of good manners. We do believe that he had a point in his quote above…that it has always been a challenge for young people to learn and practice good manners. I’m not sure what all the reasons were back then, but today a young person may be handicapped by not seeing good manners practiced at home, or by seeing very poor manners displayed by many of their friends at school, or by witnessing lot of “improper conduct” on TV.

In spite of these influences, if you, while you are young, can come to realize the power of practicing good manners and treating others in respectful ways, you can gain an important social advantage over many of your peers and friends.  Contrary to the often quoted phrase…“good guys almost always finish at the top or very near to it.” 

Time to Practice

Simply stated, you have more opportunities to be mannerly than children did back in Fred Astaire’s day when “don’t speak until you are spoken to” was often the rule of the day for children. Adults these days seem to understand that it is absolutely acceptable for young people to speak up (in a polite way) about their own beliefs, ideas, and thoughts – even when they are not the same as those held by their parents or guardians. Opposing opinions are not necessarily a bad thing – they often result in learning experiences for both adults and youth.

Having stated this, adults today still hold strong to the notion that, as your parents or guardians, we generally know best as to how to handle various situations. While most encourage you to speak your mind, we expect you to do so in a polite manner and we also expect obedience to us at all times.The simple truth is that we generally have much more experience than you when it comes to important issues, and it is our job as a parent or guardian to look after your best interest.

Because of more open communications, many of today’s parents and guardians are doing a great job of teaching young people the importance of good manners – not only in areas of communication, but in other areas as well. And it is of utmost importance for you to understand the concept of good manners and to begin putting them into practice. 

Understanding the Basics

A few important questions for you:

  • Does it really matter if you remember to always say “please” and “thank you?”
  • Will saying “please” and “thank you” actually help in getting you what you may want?
  • Do you think saying “’please” and “thank you” may be one of the marks of having good manners?
  • And is it possible that saying “please” and “thank you” can actually help your peers as well as yourself?

The unequivocal answer to all the above questions is YES. Using these small but important words can be beneficial to you in countless ways. Even if others around you do not use these terms, I assure you that almost everyone around you – adults and peers alike – will notice and admire you for your use of these simple words. 

People determine your value to them, in great part, by the way you make them feel when they are in contact with you.  Showing good manners in your speech reveals that you have respect for others as well as for yourself – and makes you much more enjoyable to be around. 

My Friend, Ed

My friend, Ed, was one super nice guy. He was always positive, always interested in what you had to say and always greeted you in a polite way with a big smile on his face. Ed had an upbeat spirit that you could actually feel when you were with him. Every time I was around Ed, I just felt better.

Unfortunately, cancer took Ed’s life several years ago. Nevertheless, seldom does a week go by that I don’t think about him and wish that he were back here making us all feel great again. Ed gave us something special – a good feeling about ourselves – and I value his friendship to this very day.

Again, whether you realize it or not, everyone – your parents or guardians, other relatives, teachers, spiritual leaders, neighbors, and, yes, even your own friends, will value your behavior. It is simply a fact that people would much rather interact with those who are nice than those who are not. And there are no better examples of nice words than “please” and “thank you.”

The Manners Test

Let’s look at your current state of good manners.  Ask yourself the following questions as they relate to people with whom you regularly interact. Each of these can be answered by a simple yes or no…be honest with yourself and tally your score at the end.

  •  Do you smile at friends and family members when you come in contact with them?
  •  Do you look people in the eye when you are talking with them?
  •  Do you let your parents know that you appreciate them and all that they do for you?
  •  Do you offer to help with chores around the house instead of waiting to be asked?
  •  Do you show respect by consistently saying “please” and “thank you” to those around you?
  •  Do you show your respect for your teachers and school staff and thank them for their efforts to teach you important things that you need to know?
  •  Do you speak to teachers by respectively addressing them as Mr., Ms. or Dr.?
  •  Do you show your appreciation to your friends’ parents/guardians when they have you in their home or help you in some special way?
  •  Do have a firm and welcoming handshake that you readily share when meeting  someone new for the first time?
  •  Would most of your friends characterize you as a really nice person?

Okay, take your time and go back over your answers to this little test, recording your yes and no responses…be honest, no one is looking, and an honest score can tell you if you need to make some improvements or not.  No one makes a 100 on this, but a 70 to 90 is a good score and indicates that, with just a little practice here and there, you could become a well-mannered young person.  A score of 50 or 60 means you need to do some work and pay a lot more attention to how you are treating the people around you. Below 50…well, there may still be hope for you, but you better get on it quickly or you are not likely to have many friends left before too long.

The little things really do count, probably much more than you have been thinking.  Saying “please” and “thank you” and looking folks in the eye during conversation are all parts of the basics of good manners. Most of these are simply the application of the “Golden Rule” – treating others as you would want them to treat you.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of having and practicing good manners.  Saying “please” and “thank you” is just a start, but a very good one.  They are literally magic words.  If you have not been using them consistently, just try it out. I can guarantee you that you will gain an abundance of respect from people of all ages. And by seeing the power of these basics now, you will learn to appreciate the power of practicing good manners throughout your life.

The human being who lives only for himself reaps nothing but unhappiness. Don’t put off the joy derived from doing helpful, kindly things for others.
B. C. Forbes

Writted by Shawn Jackson and Michael Nelson

Copyright 2014/Good Choices Good Life, Inc. / All Rights Reserved

“The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.” Fred Astaire