A few weeks ago I was, shockingly, in a grocery store the next town over with my oldest daughter. She was sitting happily in the top of the cart and I was carefully looking at some items for her. I wasn’t in the most ideal place, stuck next to a column and a gentleman stocking drinks. There was no one behind me right away, I did glance back so I could move if someone needed to get through. I must have been looking at the products a moment too long when I heard a shout. A middle-aged woman behind me shouted, “I NEED TO GET BY!”
I quickly moved and let her by, but was flabbergasted at what had just occurred. Had I not heard her? (A very soft spoken person myself, I often feel like people may think I’m rude because they cannot hear me. I always smile if I think they can’t hear me.) To confirm, I asked the gentleman across the aisle if she had said “Excuse me,” and he said something along the lines of, “No, I told her she should but she didn’t. No one says excuse me anymore, people just reach around me and end up touching me unnecessarily.” Also, there was no “thank you” from the woman either.
This experience left me very unsettled and I relayed this to another friend. We got into a discussion about manners – how I think they are very important. I am doing my best to teach them to my oldest daughter and I started teaching her at a young age. I believe it’s important to be polite. My friend responded by stating that she believes empathy is more important than manners and would like to focus on those skills with her children. This conversation also got me thinking – empathy and manners are not mutually exclusive. The foundation of manners can breed empathy.
I did a little internet search and found several articles discussing the foundation of manners as the beginnings of empathy. Originally I was going to write this post because of the lack of manners I had experienced just from a politeness stand point, but there really is more to it.
One article I found impressive was “Teaching Manners Breeds Empathy in Children” b
We cannot become lax in how early and how often we enforce manners. Do you need to stand in front of someone for 20 minutes or even 5 minutes before your toddler says “Thank you?” Absolutely not, but do you need to say it and have your child observe the act of gratitude, yes. If we start to lose manners we are at risk of losing the foundation of empathy, which we need to keep passing on in order to keep making our homes, communities, and ultimately our world a better place.