It seems to be just a simple act, but as we teach children manners we are teaching them how to put into practice many of the values associated with equality.
Manners help protect people from feeling belittled, by making up for hurting someone’s feelings, or causing them some inconvenience, or for showing appreciation. In doing that, manners show respect and help maintain the sense of equality between people that is important for peaceful daily living. There cannot be peace without justice, and the ideal justice is equality.
In our hectic lives we scurry around like busy little ants doing what we need to do, and as we meet our own needs we sometimes disrupt others by wanting to go through the same door at the same time; or we need someone’s help; or we bump into one another; or we need space to pass someone. Manners tend to keep the peace in all that.
Manners are based on equality and the need for cooperation. As we teach our children to use these manners, we are teaching them how to show respect for other people; how to gain the respect of others; and how to strengthen relationships. Telling kids that manners are really about fairness, safety, helpfulness, consideration, and co-operation teaches them far more than simply to ‘do the right thing,’ or to ‘be nice.’ Manners lay the foundations for things like:
· repairing damaged relationships;
· realising how our behaviour affects others;
· taking responsibility for our actions;
· facing the consequences of what we do; and
· appreciating what others do for us.
The most effective way to gain respect from others is to show respect to others. In some situations, assertiveness, example and manners can go together by saying, ‘I want to be treated the way I treat you.’
Respect can’t be ordered, it can be freely given or earned but it can’t be ordered. Manners are to do with the equality of human beings, so any preferential treatment shown to groups such as elderly people or pregnant women, is for reasons of health and safety, not simply because of age or gender.
When people do things that we don’t like, manners help us resist following any cultural script that says we should become angry and resentful. A cheery, “Oops, sorry” may be all it takes to avoid a nasty outcome as manners re-establish equality.
Bob Myers, author of Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness.