A couple of months ago I answered the door to a charity fundraiser, who started asking me about monthly payments to a cause.
I apologised that we were students and that we didn't really have the money for it. Having likely heard that a number of times down my road, she nodded, thanked me and went to leave. As she turned away I called after her: "Have a nice day!"
She whipped her head back round in surprise and said: "No one ever says that to me... Thank you."
What kind of world do we live in now that no one bothers to tell another human being to have a nice day? The girl was nothing short of friendly, completely non-obtrusive and accepting if you explained that you couldn't afford to donate to charity. She always said "thanks" and "sorry to disturb you", yet appeared to receive absolutely nothing in return. Me casually telling her to enjoy her day ironically seemed to make her day, and it suddenly occurred to me that modern society is missing something. Basic good manners.
My family brought me up to be respectful and polite towards people, for example, thanking someone's parents whenever I visited their house. Now I'm not saying manners should be taken to the extreme - you shouldn't be apologising for every tiny little thing you think you've done wrong, and you shouldn't be afraid to complain about something if there is a massive problem - but surely just a little politeness could go a long way?
First of all you'll be making someone else's day easier; after all, the fundraiser was only trying to do her job, in the same way that every other person in the world does. Instead of having the door slammed in her face all day, a polite no would have sufficed - the same outcome, but nowhere near as negative. This may be idealistic, but if even a couple of people had tried to put themselves in the fundraiser's shoes and were more polite to her, that would have at least made her experience slightly better.
"But why would I bother doing that?" I hear you cry. Well, don't worry - manners can be used in a very selfish way, too. If you're polite to people, you're more likely to get what you want. For example, if you're having a problem with your phone, a worker is more likely to deal with the issue promptly if you walk into the store and quietly explain what's going wrong, instead of stomping in, slamming the phone down and making a massive fuss. The same applies if you're complaining about the fault over the phone. I discovered that if I was polite but firm about the problem, they'd usually offer me some kind of compensation, but if I was moaning rudely, they'd try to fob me off with some excuse so they could put the phone down as quickly as possible.
If you've ever worked with the general public, you will know how certain people will either make your day, or break it. When I was working in a restaurant, the woman who was effing and blinding at me over the price of ice cream broke my day, but the man who came in at the end of the day and said: "In case you haven't seen the outside world all day, it's raining, and you haven't missed much. So drink coffee and smile", completely made it.
Good manners can make someone's day, so let's all just give it a go. I'm sure we'll feel much better about ourselves as a result, and the world will probably be much nicer (as wishful thinking as this is...). Plus you never know when you might need a favour from someone. What goes around comes around!
Oh, and if we're starting right now - thank you for reading this article. It's been a pleasure.