Am I a grumpy old man at age 58? Am I feeling like Rodney Dangerfield who “never got any respect?” Am I old-fashioned and, as Jethro Tull might suggest, Living in the Past? My questions have to do with, what I perceive to be, a lack of respect in America today.
I am sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office where there are four LARGE signs that request that cell phones not be used. Yet, three people are using them; and speaking loudly. When I point out the signs to them, they look at me like I am the one being disrespectful and, what business is it of mine to meddle in their conversations? But more importantly, do we really need signs to tell us when using cell phones are inappropriate and disrespectful? Am I the only one who doesn’t want to hear about the sex life of the person in front of me while waiting to check out at the grocery store? I know it’s the holiday season as I write this “vent;” but when nine people smack into me at the mall because they can’t text messages and walk at the same time – and I don’t even get an “excuse me,” am I not justified in returning their disrespectful act with a smack in their behind?
It’s everyone else but me
PioneerThinking.Com reported results from the fourth annual Lenox Gift-Giving and Etiquette Survey that showed more than 1/3 of the respondents rated the manners of Americans in general as poor. Yet 80% of respondents rated their own manners as excellent. Ah, but the problem the survey revealed was that most people don’t have even a basic grasp of common etiquette knowledge. For example, 45% of those surveyed didn’t always send a thank you note after receiving a gift. Less than 30% brought a gift for the host or hostess when visiting someone’s home. And 40% of didn’t send wedding gifts when they were unable to attend the wedding.
Then I did my own survey (non scientific, of course). Over a two day period of time in which I spent shopping at three different malls in South Florida, I never once saw a gentleman open a car door for the lady he was with. Rarely did I see anyone hold the mall door open for someone coming in behind them; and if someone actually did, the person the door was held open for never bothered to say, “thank you.”
I can’t be the only person who gets behind a driver going 30 miles an hour in a 45 mile an hour zone because the driver is too busy texting a message; having absolutely no idea how slow he or she is going. When someone passes away, is it too much to ask that a written condolence note or even a Hallmark card be sent in the US mail with an actual postage stamp, rather than by email? Isn’t sending a condolence email a little worse than tacky?
Awareness and respect build character
Our character is who we are. If we all paid a littler more ATTENTION to our surroundings and showed a little more RESPECT to those who surround us, we would develop a better character. Isn’t it time we made the effort to become a “respectful people” once again? One definition of character (Dictionary.com) is: “The aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.”
I wonder what the aggregate of features and traits are that form the societal nature of the United States today. I may be old-fashioned, as I said previously, but I do know it’s not what it used to be; and not what I’d like it to be. So let me suggest three SIMPLE things we can all do to improve and enhance our individual and collective character… that is, if we’re interested anymore in doing so.
1) Go out of your way each and every day to pay a compliment to someone else that you otherwise would not do so. In other words, be aware and pay attention to others, not just yourself.
2) Don’t use your cell phone when anyone you don’t know is within hearing distance of your call. I know this may be a significant challenge for most people. But in my day, we went in a private phone booth and closed the door because then, as now, no one else really wants to hear our conversations.
3) When you meet people, look them in the eye, smile and actually pretend as though you care. Over time, you just might condition yourself to actually do so.
Jay Block is an industry pioneer and the nation’s leading motivational career coach. Jay is a best-selling author of 15 books, including his latest blockbuster: 101 Best Ways To Land a Job in Troubled Times (McGraw-Hill). He has a 20-year record of success for creating and recreating the career management industry. His website is: www.jayblock.com