The Code (of Polite Manners)

Inspired after formulating the nine keys to magic and fired up by the effort of trying to explain good manners to my eldest, I decided to start compiling the code of ethics that defines how we should behave toward others when just out and about.

Now I want to be clear: this is not a completely codified system of ethics but an idealized version of what just about everyone expects from just about everyone else when they are in ‘adult’ company (with maybe a tweak here and there according to how I think the experience might be improved). It just so happens that there are nine points as well, but this is really going to be a work in progress.

  1. Do for others what you would have them do for you. (This is actually more problematic than it might seem, but in general it is a good idea. Show others respect and they will respect you … usually.)
  2. Only the people to whom you are speaking should hear you.
  3. Show gratitude for everything you can. (This is the ‘always say “please” and “thank you” rule and should just be ‘show gratitude for everything,’ but we all have bad days.)
  4. Never correct others when they do not keep to the code.
  5. Act on your emotions, but do not make a show of them. (It’s funny how the statements “get a room” and “revenge is a dish that is best served cold” come from substantially the same moral impulse.)
  6. Speak only when necessary. (With respects to Ezekiel and his ‘guarded tongue’, the Scots had a saying for someone who talked too much: beul gun phutan, a mouth without a button. I could follow this one more.)
  7. When you speak, say precisely what you mean.
  8. Give your full attention to someone when they speak, but address the spirit of what they say. (This is the ‘look someone in the eye when you speak with them’ rule, but it also is meant to address the tendency to overuse colloquial idioms. Like, dude, d’ye get my drift, man?)
  9. Always offer what you can openly but advisedly. (This covers sharing mugs, holding doors, charitable donations, gossip and other moments where some may expect too much or offer too little. Giving is a joy, but it needs to be done wisely for best effect.)

So that is what I have so far. There isn’t anything really mind-blowing, but this pretty much covers how I see human interaction operating.


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