Do Manners Still Matter?

This morning I was on my way down to London on the train and I had the “pleasure” of travelling in rush hour into Central Leeds. It’s been a while since I have travelled in rush hour (something I try and avoid when attending motivational talks where possible!) and like many activities it was good for a bit of people watching! The train was already full when it pulled into my home town station with many people standing and commuters crowded into the seats. I struggled onto it with my laptop, kit bag and suit carrier and sought to find a place which didn’t leave me balancing the bags and with nothing to lean or hold onto.

After a couple of minutes, the train pulled out of the station and moved on to the next station and then the next where several people got off to switch trains for Bradford. As they did so one seat was left empty and maybe 30+ people were still standing. A man, aged about 30, whipped past everybody and sat down. He was, I would say, old enough to know better (?!!) but young enough to stand without coming to any harm. I looked around the carriage. Standing up were two women over 60, one man who was even older, one guy with a stick, a slightly pregnant woman and a whole host of other people… at least half female.

Now certainly, I was taught to stand for women, children and older people let alone pregnant women or people needing a stick to help them stand. And even if this is not de rigueur anymore, is it too much to expect a totally fit man not to use his speed, agility and bulk to force his way into a seat?

I think not. And this selfish, “it’s all about me” behaviour is not isolated to travel either! We see it in all walks of life…

Leaving political comment about greedy bankers, thieving rioters, corrupt politicians and people too idle to work out of it… let’s talk about shopping! When shopping, people mill about and get in each other’s way from time to time. Every trip, creates at least one situation where one person or another has to step out of the way to avoid a collision. I am pretty aware of my surroundings and people around me so it is not often me walking sideways, bumping into people or randomly stopping or changing direction!


It’s always me saying, “I’m sorry,” even when it is clearly the other person’s fault. I can’t help it, it’s innate, its deep inside me. I just say it! I’ve tried not to but I cannot stop myself no matter how hard I try! (My Mum would be pleased). And yet, few other people murmur anything at all. I reckon less than 1 in 20… not that I’m counting or anything! It’s like, “Who are you? Get out of my way.”

So there I was, standing on the train, wondering whether I was wrong? Wondering whether offering my seat to someone else, holding a door for someone or showing politeness to someone was wrong? By refusing to ignore people, not wanting to slam doors in faces and by being unwilling to grab the last seat and play Angry Birds on my iPhone, does this make me sexist, ageist, out of touch?

Maybe you think it does? Maybe you think it doesn’t? Maybe you think I am wrong? Maybe you think I am right? I’m sure you will tell me but I think manners do matter. I think manners make society. I think manners show respect for others, respect for society and respect for yourself. Manners maketh man. And I am a man not an ape. And as a man, I care about others. I respect others. I am aware of others. I am aware of their existence and I value them. And I think that is important.

But I also think that manners stem from respect for and caring for others. And these are some of the things that make me a good speaker, a good salesperson, a good friend and good business partner.

If you want to be a good salesperson you need to care about others. If you want to be a good salesperson you need to respect others. Great salespeople respect their clients, their colleagues, their peers and their profession. For sure, you might be able to point at some money-grabbing, non-feeling, dinosaurus-rexus of a salesperson who chases their clients around biting huge chunks out of any they can catch but they are on the way out, they are soon to be extinct. Just like T-Rex.

It’s not all about sales skills. It’s not all about sales ability. It’s not all about sales training. It’s also not all about the company you work for or the product you sell. And it is most definitely not all about the market and the economy. Who you are and how you behave have a profound impact upon your client relationships, your sales conversations, your sales results and your life.

So on your way home tonight, think about it a little before you bump into the person next to you and say nothing, before you dive into the nearest seat without a thought for others, before you walk off leaving the door to swing into someone’s face. Not being aware of who lost out does not make them lose out and suffer any the less. And it does not make you a better person.

Me, I am going to continue to stand up and offer my seat, I am going to continue to hold doors and I am going to continue to say, “Sorry.”

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