Post Manners

“It is, in fact, only the person who is afraid that someone may encroach upon their exceedingly insecure dignity, who shows neither courtesy nor consideration to any except those whom they consider it to their advantage to please.”

Emily Post, Etiquette 1922

Society seems to have lost its way. There are so many things that could follow that statement.

The “way” I want to talk about is the way we treat one another in our daily and common interactions. You cannot escape the daily reporting of horrific behavior being perpetrated on store clerks, airline personnel, waitstaff, and countless people who in some way irritated or interfered with someone. Behaviors that used to be unimaginable are now commonplace, and it seems to be getting worse every day.

The Federal Aviation Administration sees 100 to 150 formal cases of bad passenger behavior in a typical year. By the first of May this year, the number of reported cases had jumped to 1,300, an even more remarkable number since the number of passengers remained below pre-pandemic levels.

In 2019, 50% of HR professionals said their organization had, at some point, experienced a workplace violence incident at some level—up from 36% in 2012. Roughly 1 out of 7 Americans do not feel safe at work, according to new data from SHRM—the Society for Human Resource Management.

Fighting over masks in public became the new American pastime during the pandemic and continues even today. Many essential workers have been given an additional task: conflict resolution. On any given day, somewhere in the United States, someone is going to wake up, leave the house, and get in a huge argument with a stranger about wearing masks.

Societally, we seem to have decided that expressing what we want and how we feel in any way we choose is our right. We have taken to expressing ourselves in the lowest forms of communication available to the members of a community: demonstrated anger, unbridled selfishness, vulgarity, violence, and assault (verbal and physical.)

So, what is going on? Why are we so unrestrained where our emotional responses and behaviors are concerned? What has changed?

When I was young, my grandmothers (and my parents, of course) consistently taught me what was acceptable to do, and what was not acceptable to do in public. Behaviors like picking one’s nose, scratching private areas, coughing or sneezing without covering your mouth and nose, and using your left-hand fingers to push food onto your fork were not acceptable. As was saying unkind things. Behaviors like saying “Please” and “Thank you”, responding politely when spoken to, picking up after yourself, and being helpful if possible were acceptable and expected. As was making people feel as comfortable as possible.

Learning these behaviors didn’t stifle my creativity or silence my voice. They didn’t infringe on my freedom or reduce my agency. Being polite didn’t cause me harm or lessen me in any way. They simply allowed me to interact with other people in public (and private) spaces in ways that were intended to show I cared enough about others to alter my behavior for them.

That is what has changed. We don’t care about each other. We complain that other people devalue us while we do the very same thing to them. We have lost our manners.

At Kimray we have a vision that guides us. It is a narrative of what we will be as a community if we are willing to care for and serve each other. In the first chapter it says:

We work together as a team to accomplish our goals without people or departments competing against one another. The Kimray Way encourages us to understand each other’s challenges and to work things out when problems arise. When we win as a team, everyone in the company shares in the growth and rewards. We also stick together through difficult times.

Everyone has a stake in the outcome and wants to know what’s happening in our business. It is normal for people to ask probing questions, and we are not afraid to challenge assumptions and push back when something doesn’t match our understanding of Kimray’s Vision. We don’t always agree (we are human after all), but we do always end up feeling heard. We let ideas compete instead of people competing against other team members.

Really, that’s just good manners. Trying to understand how the other person feels. Truly listening instead of just arguing. Not competing with other people for value. My grandmother was teaching me how to show people respect. She thought it was important because she believed that other people are equally and intrinsically valuable. She believed it was worth her time and effort to show people that she cared.

Living in a post manners world is messy. Other people are likely to devalue us and disrespect us. Other people are likely to behave poorly or even violently. Other people. We don’t have to be other people. We can choose to live and act differently. Respecting and loving other people (even when they are being unlovable) is still the right thing to do. We may not change the world, but we might change someone’s world, and after all, that is The Kimray Way.