Manners matter

As life becomes more hectic and the world more populated, the way in which we interact with each other has never been more important. Good manners can keep the strain and tension out of interactions and make all relationships easier and more enjoyable.

Manners matter by Nancy Knowlton

I had to run an errand one day when I was looking after the young daughter of some friends. We had arrived at our destination when I noticed a car about to pull out from the perfect parking spot on the street. I pulled over, put on my flasher and put my vehicle in reverse to indicate that I was awaiting the spot. Just as I was about to back into the spot, a small car pulled in and claimed it. I backed up and with my passenger window down explained to the woman that I had been waiting for the spot – perhaps she hadn’t seen me. Her response was a callous and dismissive “too bad,” rudely delivered. She continued on her way without an apparent second thought about her actions.

Let’s talk about it

I took the opportunity to fully explain the situation to my young friend, and we had a spirited conversation about good manners and proper behavior. From her comments and questions, I could tell that she understood the basic principles and that she could appreciate the proper way to behave in the situation.


As life becomes more hectic and the world more populated, the way in which we interact with each other has never been more important. It’s how we keep order in increasingly crowded cities and how people learn to deal with the daily details of living. Manners are more than something that we occasionally display – they are a necessary way for everyone to comport themselves all the time. They aren’t just something to teach and expect to see from young children – they’re for all of us.

Good manners don’t just get trotted out for dinner with a date, customer or boss. They dictate our behavior in all aspects of our daily lives at work, at home and at play. Good manners in many instances are very simple. It means adding “please” and “thank you” to requests. It means a positive and nondemeaning tone in the voice. It’s a pleasant smile to greet colleagues, friends and strangers alike. It’s listening to one another for understanding, not just awaiting your turn to talk. It means giving up a seat to an elderly person on the subway or helping another navigate a challenging physical barrier.

It should be a given

We would be wrong to think that the whole focus on manners should be on children. How adults display manners on a daily basis is actually the bigger issue. Some might think that children have an excuse when it comes to a lack of manners – after all they are still learning. Adults should have all their manners programmed for every situation, and for that reason, displaying bad manners should neither be expected nor accepted.

Good manners are particularly critical in the workplace and, while everyone deserves to be on the receiving end of them, subordinates are a particularly important group. They watch that actions match words and note any disconnections. The display of good manners goes without comment, while a display of bad manners is almost certainly noted.

And it’s not just the receiver of good manners who feels good from the interactions. All parties do. Good manners can keep the strain and tension out of interactions. Being calm versus wound up and agitated is often a welcome break in a frantic day and a crowded environment.

Want to be an entrepreneur? Then paying attention to good manners in your interactions with people has to be high on the list of must attributes. Manners really do matter.

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Nancy Knowlton
Nancy Knowlton is co-founder and CEO of Nureva Inc. and previously the co-founder and CEO of SMART Technologies. She writes about education, entrepreneurship, business management, technology, innovation and other passions.