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April 12, 2008

If An Elephant Can Paint A Self-Portrait Why Can't We Learn How to Say 'Please' and 'Thank You'?

Yes, this is a real video of an elephant painting a self-portrait.  Legitimate. 

And my point remains, if elephants are intelligent enough to learn how to paint a self-portrait, why can't today's youth learn manners?

Why am I ranting on my own site?  Because as I drill my 4 year old on the importance of saying, 'please' and 'thank you', teaching him to respect others, I see young people in customer service who don't know the words, don't know when to use them, alienating customers...and this translates to the most basic courtesies we offer to our own clients on the telephone, in our initial consultations, the courtroom, follow up upon a legal matter's conclusion and more.

I had read about a year ago how Big Law firms were bringing in etiquette consultants to educate their associates on the most basic manners.  What is happening to our society?

OK.  What set me off?  I've been noticing it more and more recently and it's been irking me.  Then today I was starving and did the unthinkable...I went to McDonald's drive through.  By the time I was done with the whole experience....waiting for that thank you which should have come effortlessly with handing me my change...it was just handed to me and the employee looked off in space.  That was it.  I couldn't hold it back. "Did anyone ever teach you to say 'please' or 'thank you' or 'have a nice day' even if you don't mean it!!!  He just continued to stare at his register and waited for me to leave swallowing hard enough his adam's apple bounced a couple of times.

The other thing which irks me no end is going to a restaurant looking incredibly feminine and the waiter or waitress comes up and says, "Can I get you guys anything to drink?"  Guys?  I'm no guy.  There is absolutely no way to confuse me with a guy.  I may not be poofed up and wearing a pink tutu, but there is no confusion. And these are very nice restaurants.  What are the waiters being taught when it comes to customer service?  It's the little things which will make people come back or not when dealing with you or your firm.  It's not the fanciest office.  It's not over-priced letterhead.  It is common courtesy and respect.

Thank you for listening.

End of rant.


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I agree with you completely. Courtesy is not merely dead, it has decayed, rotted and disappeared.


Actually I am often treated very well by people of all ages, so I'll go ahead and disagee here. Also, I have not yet learned to tell the difference between a rude person, a distracted person, and a person whose father has just died. Not at a glance, anyway. I'll tend to give them a break.


I once applied for a job at a small firm in my area. When they replied to let me know they wouldn't be interviewing me, they began the letter with, "Dear _____," literally.

I was quite dismayed and found this rude.


Amen! One thing that I really try to stress to my children is the use of the words "yes" and "no". Whenever a youth responds to an "elder" person or person of authority, or the conversational context is somewhat formal, the words "yeah" and "nope" really make me cringe.

Susan Cartier Liebel

Per, I appreciate the sentiment that we don't always know what is troubling an individual when they behave badly. However, my post isn't about bad behavior.

It is about people in normal situations, representing businesses that are not screaming and yelling, distracted or having a bad day. These are just people (generally younger) who don't know or don't value common courtesies like 'please' and 'thank you.' And this can affect one's business.

I'm just noticing it more because I'm teaching my son about courteous behaviors and when he asks me why a clerk did not say, 'please' or 'thank you' he starts to question why he needs to.

I'm not on the lookout for this, by the way. It just has become increasingly obvious much to my dismay.

Michael McBride

I remember when I was very young my parents would say how poor manners have become and that was back in the 60's. I never thought too much about it until I was older. Now I understand most things, if not all, of what my parents said and experienced. Manners, indeed, have become lacking and symbolizes a society in decline. There is no such thing as teaching, only learning. You can teach someone manners, but if they do not learn...all for naught.

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