Opinion: Be polite

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Etiquette follows us everywhere. We line up in a certain way at airports. We order our food in certain ways at restaurants. We interact with each other, in certain ways, every day. Famed heiress and arbiter of all things proper, Marjorie Merriweather Post, applied her considerable free time, and wealth, to advancing some modern standard of polite society. America, it seemed to her, had drifted from the rigid protocol of its colonial roots. While it might have been punishable by death to have turned a back to the queen, was one expected to behave the same in the presence of a senator from the newly minted United States? 

As time has invariably marched on, these set-in-stone rules of social interaction have eroded. Every day as casual day is common in our offices. First names are the ubiquitous exchange of virtually every workplace. And, the bro-hug has somehow become an acceptable greeting in business meetings. Even in the citadel of rule-making autocrats, wedding-planners have loosened the reins on their guidelines. Do we sit on the left or the right? Do we stand or sit – and when? Do we buy a gift or just hand over cash? Do we dress up or decidedly dress down? In a world of elusive standards, can we be expected to know the wediquette? 

Still, shouldn’t we find room for just a bit of politeness? With hostilities high and civility low, is there a practice, a dictate, that can guide us through these stormy seas? Perhaps knowing how long one has to respond to a formal invitation isn’t going to stop the hate and conflict surging in the world around us, but how can having a sense of reasonable expectation (on both sides of a matter) be a bad thing? We may not care about the RSVP, but they might. 

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