Recently I conducted a class in which an individual asked if manners and etiquette will disappear after the older generations pass away? The person put it in different terms, but the premise was the same.
I replied, “Absolutely not!” and here’s why:
Yes, etiquette will continue to change and evolve just like everything else in the world, but there will always be situations and environments that require a particular behavior or dress code. We may become more casual as a society, but there will always be occasions when one should not be casual. There will always be a difference between how we eat and how we dine. There will always be occasions when we should be on our best behavior and when we should be allowed to relax and eat spaghetti while it slaps us on the cheeks on it’s way to our mouths.
Unfortunately, there will always be people who are oblivious to protocol, which gives us the illusion that protocol might be on its way out. I can assure you there will always be people watching in disbelief and disgust.
For example this weekend I attended a church service in which a young lady came in late with her father, dressed in a tight tank top and pink short shorts and checked her phone several times during the homily. She proudly displayed the phone on her lap so that everyone could observe her pitiful, clueless demonstration of inappropriateness.
Civility keeps us from behaving like animals. Animals are selfish creatures that do as they please and rely on the survival of the fittest. Animals don’t think about what is appropriate. They do what they want and take what they want because it is what they know. People have to ability pay attention to rules of appropriate conduct so that others can feel comfortable.
Etiquette is about making other people comfortable. It is about thinking of others and being unselfish. It is about recognizing situations when one should think about others and their expectations, rather than only thinking of themselves. That is why, when someone breaks an unwritten rule of etiquette, it is usually a selfish act for pitiful attentions.
“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is a highly rated cable television program, but you don’t hear anyone saying they want to be like these people. They are intriguing because they lack protocol to the point of being outrageous. These people are not role models for society.
No, I do not believe that protocol will ever disappear. It will redefine itself, and what is considered acceptable will change, but I don’t believe it will ever disappear. There will always be a proper and inappropriate way to do things.
Colleen Harding is a certified etiquette and protocol instructor and the founder of the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol. Programs and packages available for children and businesses.