A pleasant-looking door in Long Beach, California
Be pleasant until ten o'clock in the morning and the rest of the day will take care of herself. -- Elbert HubbardWe just got back from our yearly vacation to California. It was a glorious few days, full of sun and interesting sites, fabulous food, great shopping, and best of all, no arguments.
Ok, maybe one little spat, but that was just a minor tantrum from me.
I wasn't sure if I was going to have a good time this time. When we picked up our rental car, the girl who took my details before we drove away barely looked at me. I wasn't sure if we were allowed to leave, so I said, "Do we get to have our rental agreement back?"
She turned and said brusquely, "You're not done. I'll give you a copy if you just give me a minute, ok?" Then, she turned back and kept chatting with the other girl in the booth until she handed me our copies. I drove away, irritated. And it stayed with me the whole trip.
I decided then and there that I would remember my own manners for the rest of the trip, not just with shopkeepers or the hotel staff, but with my husband especially. My favourite phrase: "I'm sorry, I don't understand. Can you say that again?" The perfect defuser for my hot temper.
I think back to past vacations and how many times I would get so frustrated and so tired that I would resort to my weapon of choice: a blast of temper, then the silent treatment, all based on misunderstanding and rushing through the day. It's not a very pleasant way to spend your time away from home, and it was really wrecking my relationship with my husband.
I've been inspired by my friend, Sarah, and the relationship she has with her husband. When I went to visit her a few years ago, she uttered some words that have sat with me since then: "We try to treat each other nicely. We talk to each other politely, the same way as you would to someone you met on the street."
Why don't we do this with the people we are most comfortable? Why is it that, the longer you know someone, the less likely you are to remember your manners?
Maybe it's because poor manners are cool. We see it every day on tv and in the movies, and it's funny. I'm not a prude. I like watching the Simpsons now and then. I love witty (and sometimes rude) ranting. I love a good rant myself.
But then, it makes for a pretty noisy, extremely haggard world. A generation of cynics. And the laughter is only laughter, not really happiness.
I think it's a good challenge to think about how you talk to your loved ones, and to keep track of how many times you forget to say "please" and "thank you." It would be interesting to see if my favourite phrase changes things for you. Maybe if we could say it more often, the world would be different.
Are you listening, politicians? World leaders? Teachers? Co-workers? Employers and employees? You can use my phrase for free, and maybe we can figure out how to get along together a bit better. I'd really like that.