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MANNERS MATTER: George Washington's Rules of Civility

Once upon a time, the sentiments expressed by the first POTUS hardly needed to be spoken. People knew how to "be" with each other in a civil manner. They understood that paying attention was the least one could do in company. These days, most have surgically attached a device to their ears and seem to be unable to focus on any person, place, or thing that does not appear on their screens.

In centuries past, gentlemen stood when a lady entered the room and young people did the same when their elders approached. Even at a seated dinner, guests would stand as another joined their table. As of late, I have scarcely seen young people look up from their phones when their parents and grandparents come to the table; I am sure they could not fathom being expected to stand.

Holding your tongue? In a world built upon the blood, sweat, and tears of the greatest generation, social media influencers have made it seem "cool" to spout off about every subject under the sun, knowledge and experience of the matter are irrelevant. Silence and understanding are much needed in the digital natives. Even the ability to just observe and converse in a civil way is all but forgotten.

And waiting on the slowest member of your party requires patience and empathy. Neither of these traits is inherent. Becoming a lady or a gentleman requires observation of other ladies and gentlemen. Patience is practiced and silence is a learned behavior. So, however bad the millennials, gen z's, and those that follow may be, it's our fault. Parents and grandparents have stopped modeling proper behavior for their progeny, and it is obvious.

I contend it is not too late. Gen X, boomers, and members of the silent generation who remain can and should start dressing properly to go out in public. We can stand when our elders enter the room or when a guest joins our table. We should be respectful when the young ones say something ridiculous and teach them how to engage in debate without nastiness. We can patiently sit in silence and wait for the rant to end before saying our peace. And, we can walk at our own pace and expect they will not go ahead. If they do, gentle correction should do the trick. If we are engaging, we just might teach them to engage as well. To start the conversation, I created a short list of behaviors to model.

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