20-40-60 Etiquette: Put a little love in your heart
QUESTION: In the light of the vitriolic and hateful behavior permeating our country at this time, what do you think WE can do to help civility and good manners become understood and appreciated again?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: I have written and erased more answers for this question than I ever have. All I keep thinking about is what most individuals learned in grade school. Treat everyone how you would like to be treated, with kindness and respect. Hopefully, through action, this will catch on.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: This is a hard question because we all wish the vitriol would stop but none of us know how to make it stop. But then again, so many people are holding so tightly to their own perspectives that they end up shouting at everyone (via the internet, mainly) without listening to people who think differently.
I think we could start by making our own efforts to recognize that it's a big, beautiful, diverse world, and that we should celebrate what makes us unique.
Most of us want the same things — good things — for our families and communities, even if we have different ideas about the details. We can't — and shouldn't — avoid the conflicts as we work out those details, but we can respect each other in the process.
To make the world nicer, I think what we can do is be kind ourselves. Help people who are hurting. Smile more. Pray. Take time to listen to other people's point of view and to understand their life circumstances that led to those conclusions. Stop expecting the government to legislate the things that should be a social contract of respect between neighbors, co-workers, strangers. Stop shouting on the internet and instead get to know each other as individuals. Don't assume who they are based on a category. Be thankful each day. All we can do is control our own actions — not the rest of the world's. And, again, smile at people, even if they don't always smile back. Life is hard. Shouting at people who disagree with us doesn't make it any easier or solve our problems.
HELEN'S ANSWER: Good manners are about respect, for yourself and others. I was taught that you should treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. That means not yelling (I don't like it if someone yells at me), not using profanity (it is offensive, particularly in public scenes), not saying ugly things about other people (the “mean” people who talk about others are certainly not attractive).
That also means being helpful when you can, respecting property, not making fun of other people, saying “please” and “thank you.” Simple politeness by children and adults has always been appreciated.
Somewhere along the way, some people have missed the manners lessons. Just look at all the adult corporate etiquette classes being offered in today's world.
WE can help civility and good manners by practicing them ourselves daily. WE can teach our children and grandchildren by telling them (in a loving way) how they should behave if they are out of line. If WE are going to make a stand on issues, we can do it in a way that commands respect, uses kind words, and does not attack another's point of view.
The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond from Pawhuska, said in a recent post: “It was a glorious morning and I was filled with immense gratitude.” Then she listed the things she was thankful for, including freedom, a place to live, food, clean water, animals and various personal things. WE can talk about our gratitude too. WE can be grateful for what we have and be thankful and respectful and helpful and appreciative. It just might make a difference.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Jane Jayroe, former Miss America and television news anchor: Every time I began to write a response to this question, it had a hateful tone.
What I want to say to those who are hurting our country is this: Stop it! I'm sick of people who think they have the only opinion worth having. Is there no gratitude left? No respect for others? How much self-righteous indignation can our culture hold?
But the truth is, all I can control is me. I can practice civility and good manners. I can work for good causes and try to be a kind person in small ways every day. I don't have to confront the “shouters” or watch them on TV or listen to them on the radio or vote for them.
There are ways to be engaged and learn about issues that don't involve rude behavior or inflammatory language.
Let's all take a deep breath. Listen to some good music and notice beautiful things. And let's be together — in person — at worship, in recreational activities, at city parks and other healthy activities.
I'm going to encourage gratitude and goodness in my own life so the next time I'm asked this type of question, my first response won't be an angry one.
Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com.