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The Star Weekender
http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/3/7/lifeliving/3355781&sec=lifeliving
Saturday March 7, 2009
Fading from society
By LOUISA LIM

Good manners seem to have become the primary preserve of white-haired grannies in rocking chairs, but one woman strives to correct that perception and help you navigate even the trickiest of social situations.  

The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.

When I first came upon this quote by old Hollywood heavyweight Fred Astaire, I was horror-struck.

If Astaire felt this way during his time nearly a century ago, imagine what it must be like now, with all the badly behaved celebrities and trash-talking politicians gambolling about as if they’re the coolest people to grace planet Earth. Is our generation beyond salvation?

Case in point: almost everyone I approached in an informal survey had been bullied on the road, made fun of, nudged aside or yelled at in public at least once in the past month by their countrymen. One person was even berated by a woman for holding the door open for her!


Dolly Kee cultivating young minds with good etiquette.

Australian psychologist Hugh McKay says bad manners are made even worse by the proliferation of new technologies such as the instant messaging and online networking sites.

The set of social rules that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s has gone bust, resulting in the birth of the New Rude — a term coined by etiquette books to denote “techno-dilemmas” and a whole host of other new social snags out there.

“It’s a clash of perceptions between the generations, because manners is a dynamic concept. It changes with society and time,” says Dolly Kee, founder of image consultancy firm, Image Power.

“Over the years, Malaysians have become one of the biggest offenders when it comes to their mobile phones. Is it acceptable to take a phone call during dinner? What about texting under the table if you’re in a meeting? The answer is, of course, no. But hey, others do it too.

“There are times when I’ve chided my students for being rude, but they stare blankly at me. Then it occurs to me that they haven’t got a clue!” Kee relates.

Manners still matter, she says, because it can open doors that money, power and position cannot.

“Like now, for instance. My dad has been admitted to the hospital, and the only reason I’m sitting here with you is because you were likeable. Otherwise, I probably would’ve thought twice about coming here,” says Kee.

Thank goodness for that!

If that’s not convincing enough, Dr P. M. Forni, author of Choosing Civility: The 25 rules of Considerate Conduct reveals that rudeness can (literally) make you sick.

“I’m no physician, but any doctor will say that when we are involved in a rude encounter, there are hormones — like catecholamines, for example — that are cascading into our system and making our immune system weaker.

“If you have a boss that you perceive to be unfair, you’re much more likely to have cardiovascular disease,” Forni says.

Kee, however, says there is still a glimmer of hope for humanity.

“If not, aren’t I wasting my time with this job?” she remarks wryly.

The real reason for the interview, after all, was to help readers who are bogged down with social do’s and don’ts for the new millennia.

“I get many people asking me the best way to react. The key is to treat etiquette as consideration and respect for others, rather than a discreet, inconvenient set of rules. That way, it comes easier.”

So does that mean Kee’s never been discourteous in her life?

“Nobody’s perfect,” she says, a little smile playing at the corner of her lips. “But I try my best.”

 

 
 

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