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5 Basic manners that time forgot

By Amanda Keim, Staff writer
Published On: Feb 23 2012 03:43:34 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 26 2013 08:19:14 AM CST
angry man with road rage

iStock / Spauln

In today's fast-paced, tech-driven world, people are constantly on the go and absorbed in their own to-do lists. Too often it seems people are too busy to mind their manners.

It's time to slow down and start taking notice of the world around us, and that starts with bringing some basic etiquette back to our interactions.

Modern life may have increased the number of people we have contact with on a daily basis, but there's something to be said for the quality of relationships over quantity. Respect shown through polite habits helps build that quality and, fortunately for our busy schedules, there are plenty of polite habits you can adopt that won't cut into your busy schedule.

We'll all benefit from a more conscientious, cheerful mindset if enough people make an effort to incorporate some old-fashioned etiquette into modern life. And that's quite a pleasant thought.

Up first, it all starts with a couple magic words ...

thank you note

No. 5: The power of please

They were called the magic words in childhood: please, thank you, you're welcome. Many a toddler has made a demand only to encounter a parent asking for these magic words. Use the right one and that youngster promptly got his wish. Magic, indeed.

Unfortunately, that magic has worn off for far too many people as they've grown older. "Please" has been replaced by demands and expectations, "thank you" with a grunt or a nod. (And forget about "you're welcome." If anyone does bother to say "thank you," the typical response is, "sure," "no problem," or, "No, no, thank you.")

To start bringing back the politeness, try this little experiment the next time you make a request: add a "please," and follow it up with a "thank you." Watch for a look of surprise on the face of the waiter refilling your water glass or the co-worker who's been answering to others' demands all day, then pay attention to your subsequent interactions with that person. You just may find those words still hold magic, after all.

With that out of the way, let's talk invitations ...

rsvp letters

No. 4: Respond, if you please

Yes, the literal translation of R.S.V.P. is a request: please reply. That doesn't mean you should blow it off.

Inboxes can get inundated with e-vites and Facebook event requests. It's easy to add a few more people to your party when you just click a button to send another invitation.

But even though the ease of the invite can lead to electronic inboxes virtually overflowing, it's still common courtesy to let someone know whether you plan to grace them with your presence.

Guesstimating how many will actually come can lead to an ill-prepared and stressed out party planner.

An accurate head count, on the other hand, can help make a happy host and a more pleasant evening all around. And it only takes a second to click that button that says whether or not you're coming.

Next up, ever wonder why they say the pen is mightier than the sword?

Pen and handwritten letter

No. 3: Power of the pen

Email may be the standard letter form these days, but there's still nothing quite as personal as a handwritten note.

Many kids were required to write thank you notes by hand after every birthday with the threat they may not get presents again next year if they don't properly express gratitude

But that threat seems to have faded away; in today's adult world, a thank you note is more often a standard e-card if it comes at all.

The next time you have someone to thank, try sitting down and writing it out on your own. You'll force yourself to reflect, and you'll create a tangible memento your friend can treasure.

And as an added bonus, you'll add a little spice to the mail carrier's routine when they get to deliver something other than a bill, magazine or piece of junk mail.

Our next selection shows that manners and texting don't always mix ...

texting in restaurant

No. 2: Ignore the phone, not your friend

The image of two people walking side by side engrossed in their own text messages is sad. When it's one person yakking on the phone while a friend is sits across the table picking at her salad, it's just rude.

Cell phones have become a necessity we let run our lives. We've been trained to respond to every little beep or vibration, whether important or trivial, no matter what.

If the phone interrupts something you're doing, that's one thing. But when you spend time with someone and decide to take a phone call, you let that other person know they're not as important as whoever is calling.

Sure, there are certain emergencies when you need to stay glued to your phone, but how many messages and calls can wait until later? We survived without being constantly online before the advent of the cell phone. You can wait half an hour to check the direct message you just got through Twitter.
Last up, if you can't say anything nice...

man looking at computer screen

No. 1: Online doesn't mean 'free-for-all'

The anonymity of the Internet makes it easier for people to say what's on their mind without fear of retribution. That can be a good thing in certain situations, but this cloak of the online world is too often used as a cover for spewing bile that most people would never let slip in face-to-face conversations.

You don't need to look much further than most local news sites or blogs to see tirades based on race, politics or assumptions.

After all, it's easy to just type out what's on your mind a push the post button when you don't have to worry about an immediate, in-person confrontation.

That anger-inducing comment may appear only in cyberspace, but at the other end of a computer, it's making someone mad in real life.

Instead of adding to that anger, just remember what your mom told you before making your next online comment: If you can't think of anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.