I know I will sound nostalgic for those putative good-old-days, but I must voice my ongoing surprise that in a time when communication has never been easier—email, text, SMS, phone, letters, c’mon, you don’t even need to actually waste time speaking to someone—there is a profound lack of what seems to me to be basic courtesy.
There's often no acknowledgement of information received, thanks for an event attended, confirmation of receipt of package or card. Emoticons were invented for the terminally inarticulate—a heart, a smiley face, or just thx—but don’t hold your breath.
I have a great 1942 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette. It notes in the front pages that “This book is manufactured under wartime conditions in conformity with all government regulations controlling the use of paper and other materials.” The book is filled with excellent advice in general, and timely advice on how to bake a wedding cake by borrowing friend's ration cards for butter. Belt tightening indeed.
I thought I would share an excerpt from a delightful book titled: Good Form: Manners, Good and Bad, at Home and in Society © 1890, p. 31. Yes, that’s the kind of book my friends give me! While it's not about acknowledgement, I found it a powerful reminder of what seems so missing from our discourse.
Good and bad manners in conversation
“Unfortunately, it is sometimes the man 'who don't know that he don't know,' who is most insistent upon being listened to. This fault is not confined to men, however. It is the ignorant who are inhospitable to another's opinions. Entertaining alien views long enough to judge them fairly is not adopting them, anymore than it is including a person in one’s family to ask him to dinner. The scoffer at any seriously formulated judgment shows bad manners. Another bad mannered person is the one who boldly or baldly contradicts. Dissent is allowable if cautiously expressed, but denial or contempt is bad form. Those who differ from each other in opinions, are in very bad form if they cannot meet in society and find harmonious topics upon which to speak to each other.”
But I realize that in addition to sex, conflict sells, and when you’re looking to gain, retain and monetize an audience, the Xtreme, the outrageous and polarizing positions capture our attention, our time and our clicks. Unfortunately, we often even believe it.
On the positive side, I would note that Jon Stewart usually displays a level of tact and decorum that might be a model for a 21st Vs 19th Century self presentation. And worth channelling as we head for those fabulous family meals....!
Thanksgiving is a good time to say