Friday, August 04, 2006

Manners: Is it a North/South thing?

Simply put, I think the answer is "yes."

Now, that doesn't meant that there aren't plenty of kind, well-mannered people located in the Northern regions of these United States. It damn-sure doesn't mean that the mean and the rude are barred from the Southern states.

What it means is that, on-average, I encounter more casual rudeness (per random person) when I'm "up Nawth" (or when interacting with someone who is) than when I'm "down South."

I don't mean to insult anyone in-particular and I'm certainly not ignoring the many tales I've shared of poor local customer service. But the following quote is from a New Yorker and it seems to clearly illustrate the difference in standards between the folks I respect and those that I do not (regardless of their geographic location).

"I don't like the way a lot of people say things, but so what? That's how they say it."


That was that New Yorker's response when someone else complained about rude behavior. I think he's saying that how we speak to each other is irrelevant.

Obviously, I disagree.

I've talked about this a good deal over the years and am settling into the idea that even asking this question is somewhat futile. Why?

Because the standards of decency seem to vary so greatly that what is considered rude by Person A may not be rude to Person B, so we're essentially speaking different languages. Asking people with different standards of civility of people are rude is like asking two blind people on opposite sides of an elephant to describe it.

Each person can only speak from his or her perspective.

From my perspective, the way you say something matters just about as much as WHAT you say. Obviously, by the above quote, there are those who strongly disagree with me on this point.

I'm not sure that there's a doggone thing that can be done about it, but I'd like to chat about it a little, here.



In fact, I sometimes think that manners vary, not just by one's geography, but by one's ethnicity, as well. I've often had Black folks agree that something was rude, where white folks say it wasn't.

So, does that mean that white folks are ruder than Black folks? Well, like above, the super-simplified answer could be "yes," but it really comes down to having different standards of decency among and within various groups of people. They could say the same about us.

(And, in case it actually needs to be said, the above does not mean that there aren't a ton of rude-ass Black folks in this world. I know there are.)


What do YOU think?

8 comments:

Luke Cage said...

The standards of decency DO vary from person to person West. I've found out from personal experience that people I talk to in the "same city" and not so much region can actually vary drastically.

I hold tremendous weight in the way someone says something as well as what they are saying. I don't think there's that much difference between the two, but that is me. I don't think the New Yawka's comment was actually him saying how we speak is irrelevant per se.

I think he was saying, hey that's just the way it is, what can I do but to accept it and keep it moving? See there? That could be exactly what you are referring to right there. One phrase, taken and understood in 2 totally different perspectives. In the end, you are probably right. There probably isn't much any of us can do about it.

West said...

re: "The standards of decency DO vary from person to person West. I've found out from personal experience that people I talk to in the "same city" ..."

Like I said, I recognize that there are rude locals, as well.

re: "...and not so much region can actually vary drastically. I hold tremendous weight in the way someone says something as well as what they are saying. I don't think there's that much difference between the two, but that is me. I don't think the New Yawka's comment was actually him saying how we speak is irrelevant per se.

I think he was saying, hey that's just the way it is, what can I do but to accept it and keep it moving? See there? That could be exactly what you are referring to right there. One phrase, taken and understood in 2 totally different perspectives."


Two people were in an argument. One was saying that the other was being rude. "The New Yorker" responded by saying, "so what."

Sure, people can interpret things in a variety of ways, but when I say, "so what," I'm responding to what I consider to be an irrelevant statement. I think that's how it's most commonly used.

re: "In the end, you are probably right. There probably isn't much any of us can do about it."

Maybe I overstated, before. I think we can do something about it. I just don't think we will.

Some things we just won't understand. Others we'll just rationalize or ignore until they stop annoying us.

chele said...

I suppose there would have to be a clear definition of what is rude behavior and what is not. There are some things that are blatantly rude but than there is always that gray area.

I think to walk by someone and not speak is rude. Many folks disagree.

I think it's rude for a person not to hold a door open for another person. Again, many folks disagree. Trust me, I have a whole list.

I lived in CT for 28 years before I moved to the semi-south (VA) and I have found that overall the people in the south are more well-mannered, more friendly and more hospitable.

West said...

re: "I suppose there would have to be a clear definition of what is rude behavior and what is not. There are some things that are blatantly rude but than there is always that gray area."

Agreed - Person A's standards of decency, as compared to those of Person B.

But, to me, responding to someone's concerns about rudeness by saying, "so what" speaks more to an absence of such standards. I guess I could deal with a difference of opinion regarding the definition of rude behavior more than I can deal with the idea that such standards do not or should not exist.

That person was saying that different standards of decency (i.e. manners) are like different tastes in music. Obviously, I don't see it that way.

re: "I think to walk by someone and not speak is rude. Many folks disagree."

At work, or somewhere that I'll see the same people over and over, throughout the day, I only feel the need to speak, occasionally - usually the first time I see them, and them random moments after that.

I've got a co-worker, though, who'll walk in the office, walk right past me, and regard me about as much as he does the paintings on the wall. That's some rude shit. (He's GOOD n Southern, btw. So again, I admit that it's not purely regional.)

re: "I think it's rude for a person not to hold a door open for another person. Again, many folks disagree."

When I'm walking out of a door and someone's behind me, I don't want the door to catch'em in the face, so I hold it until they exit or until I see that they're ready for it. I hope others will extend the same courtesy to me, but it's becoming more and more rare.

When I get off the elevator, I feel that whomever's waiting to get ON the elevator ought to let me exit before he or she enters.

re: "Trust me, I have a whole list."

Same here. We should compare lists, some time.

re: "I lived in CT for 28 years before I moved to the semi-south (VA) and I have found that overall the people in the south are more well-mannered, more friendly and more hospitable."

I've lived in the South for almost all of my life, but the times I've up North have almost always been heavily peppered with moments where I was truly shocked at the level of rudeness I encountered. Obviously, it happens here, in Florida, as well, but it's often of a different variety and frequency.

A lot of Northerners-turned-Southerners have been pretty rude and a lot of Southerners-turned-Northerners have been pretty kind to me (though there are always exceptions).

Too often, objections to unkind behavior are blindly dismissed as over-sensitivity. *shrugs*

chele said...

I don't think standards of decency can be compared to tastes in music. I don't think there are many gray areas when it comes to treating people in a decent manner. Common courtesy ain't rocket science for goodness sake.

West said...

re: "Common courtesy ain't rocket science for goodness sake."

Sometimes, it's hard to tell.

Great quote, btw.

asdf said...

I think he was saying, hey that's just the way it is, what can I do but to accept it and keep it moving?

That basically sums up my philosophy on life. If there's something going on I don't like, I usually just give the old "oh well" and move on.

West said...

Doug: I admit that there's some value in that philosophy, but there's a clear and necessary distinction between the things that other people do and the way that one chooses to react.

Reacting casually may reap certain benefits (sometimes), but it doesn't divest the other person of his or her culpability and responsibility.

In other words, if grown-up is running around like a nut and stomps my big toe, I may not choose to donkey-punch the bastard, but that doesn't mean he didn't deserve to be held responsible for the incident.