Learning manners is a very tricky process.
As a Young Wanter, you have to go through a progression of being impolite – and being the brunt of impoliteness – in order to learn that people respond more positively to pleasant requests for assistance than they do to demands.
How many times have you (as a Seasoned Giver, a Young Wanter or a bystander) witnessed this exchange:
Wanter: “I want [a cookie/a pony/some other desirable noun]!”
Giver: “How do you ask?”
Wanter: begrudgingly “PUH-LEEEEEEZE.”
If the Seasoned Giver is astute, they will phrase their request politely in order to set a positive example. For instance, “Could you please ask nicely?” would garner a more expedient reaction, I would think, than a demand for good manners. In the strictest sense, it would be ironic**1 to demand the use of polite manners. But the main point here is that many Young Wanter-hood wishes are met not with the giving of the desired item, but with a response requesting the application of some manners. Only once these manners are interjected does the process begin of garnering what one sought in the first place.
As the Young Wanter begins to age, Seasoned Givers need no longer moderate the requests that escape their offsprings’ lips. The Young Wanter begins taking it upon themselves to ask nicely from the very start in order to avoid unnecessary conversation with adults. Indeed, a “May I please borrow the car?” will get you out the door to your booze-fueled orgy in a much more timely manner, and without as many pesky questions about Purpose of Travel and Intent to Return. It’s almost safe to say that Seasoned Givers ask more questions if you’re impolite, just to create greater inconvenience.
So it stands to reason that, in some time during conception and graduation, most Young Wanters**2 come into contact with and learn the proper application of manners in family, social and educational/professional settings.
And that’s where I get confused.
Seasoned Givers seem to have a grasp of manners, in order to train their spawn in the Polite Ways of the Universe. Young Wanters seem to have a basic understanding as well, in order to escape their Seasoned Givers’ incessant nagging. Somewhere along life’s path, it stands to reason that approximately 85% of the world would have found themselves in a situation where being impolite just wasn’t an option.
So where have all of the miscreants that litter the world come from?
The number of individuals within professional establishments who are unable to request things with even the most sarcastic, curmudgeonly shmear of politeness is mind boggling.
As a small smattering of examples:
“I need you to take care of [verb].”
For instance: “I need you to take care of placing that order.”
“I need [noun].”
For instance: “I need Post-Its.”
“[Verb, barked as a monosyllabic order].”
For instance: “Help.”
Sometimes, I’m sure these are meant to be requests for assistance instead of demands for action. Busy schedules can get in the way of manners, as can stressful deadlines, and it behooves one to act expediently and deal with the fallout later.
But, more often, I think that this behavior continues because it is justified by the individuals who allow it to take place.
Think about it:
As a Young Wanter, how often did you receive That Which You Desired if you didn’t apply the appropriate layer of politeness to your request? 20% of the time was my top percentage. Those were times when either A) my Seasoned Givers were busy and wanted me out of their hair; B) I was being monitored by an only-slightly-older-than-me individual who didn’t care what I did or how I acted so long as she got her $20, or C) I was pitching a tizzy to my grandparents. And even in these instances, I only had about a 50% success rate. On a normal day, under normal circumstances, I didn’t get anything I requested impolitely… And outright demands were only met with a warming of my posterior. No chance in hell that I would get what I wanted if I didn’t shine up my niceness and put it to good use.
And yet, as an adult, this behavior of “Demand and You Shall Receive” is not only acceptable… It’s almost expected.
When working with a Polite Asker and a Grumpy Demander, whose project are you more likely to hurry off your plate so a difficult individual will get out of your hair?
The Grumpy Demander. No question.
When face with a “Could you please” and a “Get it done,” which will you tackle first to avoid unnecessary Strife?
The “Get it done.” Again, no question.
Again and again, instances arise where the Nice Guy is pushed to the back burner in order to “handle” the pushy, negative, and rude individuals that plague society.
And all because, as an adult, it’s “Impolite” to request manners from peers.
But don’t think I don't try.
**1 - Ironic: eye-RON-ick [adj] See: Parenting.
**2 – Not all. Some are raised by heathen Seasoned Givers, or by wildebeests.