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Have Common Courtesy and Manners Declined in the 21st Century?

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The vast majority of people think that everyday manners and common courtesy have declined, and want to see a return to the polite and chivalrous attitudes of the past, according to new research.

Three quarters of people who responded to a survey by first direct support the idea of a kinder society in which gestures of thoughtfulness and respect are exchanged on a regular basis.

But, in this hectic modern era, amid rapidly shifting social and gender attitudes, how would it work? When we think of past traditions of common courtesy, we conjure images of gentlemen walking on the outside of the pavement, protecting their ladyfolk from the spray of passing traffic. You may already have summoned a mental picture of a man holding open a door for a woman, holding out her chair or offering up his seat on the train.

Of course, men should continue to extend courtesy to women. But modern perspectives dictate that it should no longer be one way traffic between genders; these chivalries should now been seen as a shared duty. If our newly mannered society is going to work, women need to step up to the plate too.

In fact, we all do – men, women and children alike. Why? Because common courtesy isn’t simply ‘a nice way to behave’ – it knits the social fabric together. Just as importantly, sharing a joke with a stranger or helping someone with their bags makes us happy. It can be hard to break out of the bubbles of self-protection that modern living sometimes pushes us into. But offering up our seat on the bus to the person with the heavy shopping or the baby bump instead of pretending you haven’t seen them won’t just help them out – we’ll feel good about it too.

Our Web TV Show, hosted by psychologist Dr Gary Wood, is essential viewing for anyone who longs for a return to a more courteous way of life. Joined by Lisa Wood of first direct, Dr Gary will be discussing in detail the psychology of good manners and explaining how we can better get the message across to our family and to the next stranger we see in the street. He’ll also be answering your questions live online, so send yours in now. Thank you!

Social Psychologist and author Dr Gary Wood and Lisa Wood of first direct join us live online to discuss the psychology and importance of courtesy and manners, and how parents can better get the message across to their children.

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