The previous year has seen its fair share of both joys and tragedies on the public stage. I challenge my readers to make 2013 the year that basic civility makes a comeback.

Why should good manners be practised? They are the starting points for developing positive, meaningful relationships with people. However, basic civility is decreasing in society at an alarming rate. Two reasons for this could be the constant dependence on techno gadgets and the frantic pace of our lifestyles. This provides little chance of face to face communication with real human beings. Messages become clipped, abbreviated and the meaning becomes lost or misunderstood. As a result, empathy is lacking. This virtue is defined as “the capacity to recognize emotions that are experienced by another person”. We aren’t aware of how our actions affect others so bad manners become the default way of interacting with people.

By sharing the following list with our children & teens, we can increase their sense of empathy.

  1. Eye contact and smile more – it’s difficult to be selfish or self-centred if you’re making an effort to be pleasant with those around you.
  2. Friendly to everyone in class or on the team – make a point of getting to know at least one person that you don’t usually hang out with. Remember to say, “Please”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”, too.
  3. Helpful – help with chores at home w/o having to be pestered, be willing to help struggling fellow students in a subject that you ace.
  4. Thoughtful – remember someone’s birthday, send a condolence card if someone’s family member/friend has passed away. Be ready to give a compliment if a fellow team-mate makes a good play.
  5. Use more face to face communication – less social media or texting during the coming year. For instance, if being chauffeured by parents, take out the ear buds and have a talk with Mom or Dad. Refrain from texting if you’re having a conversation with someone.
  6. Be with people – volunteer your time for an important cause.

As parents, we should try to lead by example, also. While encouraging our children with these ideas, think of ways that empathy can increase both at home and place of employment. For starters, does the smart phone need to be on 24/7? Just a suggestion…

The lack of basic good manners is all around us, unfortunately. But the good news is that we can all decide to practice civility as a norm of behavior. As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Any other ideas come to mind? Please add them to the comments.

Maria Doll, certified Etiquette Trainer for Children and Teens.

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