At the risk of sounding out of touch, one of the advantages—or perhaps disadvantages—of being older is that “I remember when…” My parents used to say that all the time and I was real good at doing the teenager eye rolls. They are impolite, and I got swatted (with the belt) for those eye rolls them a few times.
We will be doing a series explaining the different manners we’ve noticed declining in America and why.
Who’s to Blame?
This is an excellent question, but it’s not an easy answer. We can start with the fact we now have many foreigners from war-torn countries and from countries where manners don’t exist in our midst; we have a president who resists telling the truth, rests his feet (while wearing shoes) on furniture in the Oval office and is inconsiderate of the American people by imposing his unconstitutional wills (Executive Orders/bypassing Congress) on us, and seventeen years ago we thought we had a southern gentleman for president—Bill Clinton—who ended up being a role model for immorality. (“I did not have sexual relationships with that woman.”)
The media also bears a huge responsibility with the portrayal of unfathomable behavior on the “silver screen” and on television, and while we can blame the pervasiveness of rudeness on the foreigners, our leaders, the media, etc., the foundations need to come from the parents. They have the basic responsibility and civic duty to instill kindness and manners to prepare their children for adulthood with the ability to recognize rude behavior and counter it by being accountable and responsible citizens.
Let’s look at the phrases, “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry. It seems that very few Americans asked to be excused or are apologetic anymore. We all experience it every day.
Saying “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry”
Saying, “Excuse me” or “pardon me,” you are asking for permission. Try not to use the colloquial, “ ‘Scuse me.” “Pardon me” is not used in America as much as it is in England; it depends on your upbringing and the company you keep.
Saying, “I’m sorry” means something you regret having done. By just saying the shortened version, “Sorry” sounds curt and might come across as lacking sincerity.
- When you walk in front of people or accidentally bump into somebody, wherever that might be (e.g., store aisles, events, theatres, etc.), say, “Excuse me” or “pardon me.”
- With foods or soda pop/water which might cause you to belch, say, “I’m (really) sorry.”
- If you inadvertently step on someone’s foot or bump into another person, say, “I’m sorry” or “Oh, I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
- When you interrupt (try not to) say, “I’m sorry, I thought you were done talking” or “excuse me,” and wait for your turn.
- If you hurt someone’s feelings, always sincerely say, “I’m sorry,” and add a hug, depending upon the relationship. Assume responsibility and ask to be forgiven. Don’t try to justify what you said or did. In other words, don’t make excuses. Don’t play the victim! You hurt them, not the other way around.
- If you’re late for a business appointment, don’t say you’re absent-minded or call yourself a “space cadet. Only express regret for missing that specific date and time. Do not be over apologetic. Be professional and reserved.
- If you miss an appointment with friend(s), an apology is necessary, but it’s more informal.
- Never cancel at the last minute. It’s rude.
- If you are the one being offended, no matter what the situation is, swallow your pride and move on.
- The same applies to constructive criticism. If you made a mistake, own up to it and apologize. Don’t agonize over it.
Speaking of appointments, if you are unable to keep any appointment, whether it’s with friends, business relationships or medical, please give them at least a 24 hour notice.
When changing lanes on the freeway/highway, you obviously can’t say, “Excuse me,” but a polite waive might keep the driver you pulled over in front of from becoming annoyed. The waive serves as a “thank you. This could prevent road rage for hot-tempered drivers who irrationally think you offended them.
You might have heard the saying when driving in heavy traffic, “I’m not asking permission; I’m telling you I’m coming over.” I’m not advocating that, but sometimes those quick moves in heavy traffic can’t be helped. In all situations when driving, always use caution and express your gratitude—politely!
When taking public transportation which is filled to capacity, offer to give up your seat to an older person, male or female. If you’re a man, always offer to give up your seat to a lady period. If you are the one someone gave up the seat for, say, “Thank you” or “Thank you. I sure appreciate it.”
If you’re someone who has a lot of interesting information to share, learn to be a good conversationalist, always paying attention to the one talking and waiting for them to complete their thought. When it becomes your turn to talk, keep it brief unless it requires a deeper understanding.
If you don’t hear or understand what someone said, say, “I’m sorry” or “Pardon me, would you please repeat that?” Don’t say, “What?”
If you’re older with age-related hearing loss, say what I say in those situations: “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear what you said—my ears are plugged up.” Ah, vanity.
Bottom Line—the Less Said, the Better
- Even though you most likely feel badly by inadvertently offending others, never say more than what you need to—express regret and move on.
- Don’t be dramatic.
- Keep it simple and be sincere.
- If you’re the one being offended, remain calm, listen and respond in a controlled and polite manner.