Minding your manners – A teenager’s perspective on etiquette

Minding your manners – A teenager’s perspective on etiquette

I asked three male and three female teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 five questions about their perspective on manners and etiquette. Have a read below to understand their view on this topic because as adults we need to listen to them and learn from them too.

1. Do you think etiquette (polite behaviour and customs expected from society) is important nowadays?

Respondent 1 – Male

No. I think that the concept of a set of implicit rules which one must follow to be accepted socially is old and sanitises human interaction, making it dull.

Respondent 2 – Male

Yes. To establish your social status.

Respondent 3 – Male

Yes. I think it is important because etiquette and such customs are what sets us apart from animals and allows us to live in harmony together.

Respondent 1 – Female

Yes. I think that the basic notions of etiquette such as acknowledging the presence of adults in the room, saying good morning, please, thank you etc., should be upheld as it maintains a sense of respect and unity in society. The excessive etiquette of the 18th century, for instance, is irrelevant and superficial. The only etiquette necessary is that of respect and discipline.

Respondent 2 – Female

Yes. It helps people get along and avoid conflict.

Respondent 3 – Female

Yes. I believe that having a set of “manners” or social customs that are expected of both women and men (that are in no way demeaning to either sex) helps to build a relationship between a group of people where respect is of utmost importance.  Such customs therefore reinforce the idea of having and adhering to good morals and putting that into action by means of common etiquette.

2. Many say that youth are not polite, have no idea of boundaries and need to respect others more. What is your view on this generalised statement?

Respondent 1 – Male

I think it depends on how you view it. We may not be polite or respectful in the traditional sense. Still I don’t believe that the majority of us want to be purposefully rude or disrespectful. We just have a different definition for what is rude and disrespectful.

Respondent 2 – Male

Youths tend to rebel and thus adults judge incorrectly.

Respondent 3 – Male

Whilst slightly exaggerated, this view is not entirely incorrect because while there would be certain teens who will not be brought up in the correct fashion, there will also be others able to act as they should. Also, the disrespect a teen may show towards their superior might be due to all of the hormonal changes they are going through.

Respondent 1 – Female

I don’t completely agree with this statement as it is generalising the whole population. The ill-mannered are only a part of teenagers, not all. There are several mature teenagers who are contributing towards society and making a difference. Most of youths, nowadays, aim for high educational standards.

Respondent 2 – Female

Behaviour depends on the person’s character, upbringing and current mood.

Respondent 3 – Female

My view is that it is definitely generalised to an extent which looks past the truth.  I believe that on the whole, the youth of my generation have extremely different values when compared to older generations, which is where a societal dissonance occurs.  It is because of such opposing views that often causes a stigma that youth are somewhat “arrogant” and “impolite” which is sometimes true, but most times not.  I do believe that certain manners are no longer implemented by youth since they are seen as “old fashioned” but the few ethical protocols that have remained are displayed throughout most youth.

3. How do you think teens today prove the above generalised statement in question 2 wrong?

Respondent 1 – Male

Most aren’t troublemakers in the sense that we purposely wish to cause harm to others and their property as I would define disrespectful behaviour.

Respondent 2 – Male

By not disrespecting your superiors.

Respondent 3 – Male

Acting politely, being respectful and taking moral decisions.

Respondent 1 – Female

Teenagers nowadays prove this statement wrong by respecting others and furthering their studies and schooling. The fact that lots of time is spent on studying and aiming at obtaining a job, which in return, would contribute to society, is quite encouraging and shows concern for others. Furthermore, the involvement in school-based and non-school-based alike, puts students’ attention to good use.

Respondent 2 – Female

When they do act polite, know their limits and treat others with respect.

Respondent 3 – Female

There are everyday people I’ve met my age who have always showed respect and been polite to me- people who choose not to curse in conversation, to follow their religion’s values, people who display good work ethic and respect everyone around them and all the youth I’ve met who have things as simple as table manners.  These are all small shows of politeness within our culture which I believe are not recognised enough by adults.  They seem to only focus on what the media portray the youth to be- ruthless and impolite- which is in most cases, not true.

4. What is your view on how adults treat teens today? (Based on your experience)

Respondent 1 – Male

Most adults tend to think the worst of us and regard behaviour such as swearing and name calling inherently bad, without taking into account intent and content.

Respondent 2 – Male

Most of the time they treat youths well, but sometimes lack understanding and finding common ground.

Respondent 3 – Male

Through my experience there are many adults who are able to trust teens and provide them with responsibilities, however there would be the few with an old mentality who refuse to trust teens.

Respondent 1 – Female

Based on my own experience, adults’ attitudes towards me depends on how I address and talk to them – the treatment is reciprocal.

Respondent 2 – Female

They expect you to act like a grown-up but still do not trust you fully to do grown-up things.

Respondent 3 – Female

I have had a variety of experiences with how adults have treated me personally.  I have always been one labelled ‘mature for her age’ which is possibly due to my own implementation of knowing mine and other people’s boundaries, which may have affected my experience.  I have always got on with older and younger generations since I believe respect is universal and will be reciprocated whenever shown, therefore I have had a good experience with people across the board.  However, I have had few experiences where adults have had an air of pompousness when interacting with me, due to the stigma that youth are obnoxious and impolite, which caused me to feel inferior and belittled.

5. According to you, what can adults do to make a positive impact on society nowadays?

Respondent 1 – Male

Open their minds and try to understand how teens and young people see the world so that they can let go of their old ideas and accept the new, more liberal way of doing things.

Respondent 2 – Male

Be more constructive, rather than destructive.

Respondent 3 – Male

They can make sure to incorporate the teaching of societal rules and general self-management in their teen’s upbringing.

Respondent 1 – Female

I think the biggest issue that needs to be addressed is the stigma and stereotype against youngsters. If this barrier is broken, and adults respect and give the necessary attention to teenagers, then unity would increase, thus contributing to a happier society.

Respondent 2 – Female

Raise their children to be responsible, respectful people by leading by example.

Respondent 3 – Female

I think it is imperative that the way adults communicate with any and everyone should remain constant. Talking to a six year old and a sixty year old should only differ by use of jargon and tone, but the sentiment behind what one says and the respect shown towards everyone who enters their lives should be universal.  It is also useful, in my opinion, that certain social conventions should be taught to younger generations so that the knowledge of boundaries and respect will hence come more naturally to them.

Ramona Galea

Ramona Galea

Ramona is an International Etiquette Coach and an avid believer of the importance these soft skills have nowadays. This passion kicked off from a young age when she questioned why elbows couldn’t stay on the table and her inquisitiveness continued and she founded First Class Etiquette, to address the developing need for people’s understanding of the importance of international business and social etiquette. It really is not just about elbows but confidence, attitude, assertiveness and knowing the how, the when and the why we do things. Amongst her hectic schedule, her two biggest indulgences are travelling with her family and reading with an Aperol Spritz in quiet surroundings - just being away from it all to de-stress.

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