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Can Old School Etiquette Cure Chronic Millennial Rudeness?


By now most of you know all about my ridiculous and hilarious fails in the world of Tinder. My most recent encounter proved to be of some value at least – well he inspired this, which might entertain and educate you, my readers. What is the inspiration you might ask? It led me to ask this important question: “Why do we, as millennials, find it so easy to be rude?” The answer might be that we don’t think that what we are doing is rude, or that we are just so self-centred that others don’t matter. Let your eyes walk with me on this journey of enlightenment as I unpack my latest issue with society…

I was supposed to meet a guy, it was the third time we tried to meet up. Once I cancelled (it was a shitty day at school and I got home crying – puffy eyes on a first date? I think not!) The second time he never confirmed any details – by four in the afternoon of the date I was ticked off and decided to call it. I am no one’s playmate. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice… We spoke again though, and clarified the situation. He though I was going to make a plan and I though he was, and you know how that goes. We set another date. Third time lucky, I thought.

Attempt number three was to be at 20:00 Saturday night. I was strangely excited, but by 19:00 he hadn’t responded nor told me the plan, and I realised… this was never going to happen. He treated me, and has been doing so all along, as a distraction – a toy he could fetch from his toy box when he was bored. Don’t misunderstand me, I know most of us in the Tindersphere do this sometimes… we have that one chat we return to when the swiping is not as successful as we hoped. Not even mentioning the swiping we do when life is boring! I understand, but don’t make a date then! Keep it in the chats for goodness sake! 

Kindness etiquette for millennials
Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

What happened was rude. What he did was rude. There’s no kindness in the act at all. And I realised tonight (after moping around and being angry for shaving unnecessarily) that we do this so easily. We are rude. I cannot really blame him, because the age of social media has made it so easy to be this way. We “ghost” people when we’re tired of them. We don’t confirm dates and then never show up, or we cancel last minute, because it’s that easy. I’m guilty of this too, I concede. There’s no need to look into the person’s eyes and see their disappointment when you want to explain your motives. There is no need to be uncomfortable and vulnerable or honest. Just ignore them, like we do with everything in our lives we don’t like. 

And I realised tonight how horrible that is.

Think about the last time you were ghosted. Did you enjoy it? Or was there a point when you bitched to your friends about the audacity of the idiot? I’m sure you nodded at the second option, and if you didn’t I’ll decide that you did for the sake of my point. Sorry not sorry.

If we don’t like being stood up, ghosted, ignored, fucked around… then why do we do it to others? Where is our humanity? Our sense of consequence and kindness? I’ve always made a point of it to tell the guys I go on dates with that I didn’t feel a spark and I wished them the best in their search…My friends thought it unnecessary, but the men have all seemed to appreciate it. Honesty and realness goes much further and it brings healing, where evasion broadens the gap. 

Our rudeness isn’t just limited to our socials, but also very apparent in real life. I think it has to do with a sense of entitlement. I see it at work everyday, and have been guilty of it myself. I don’t smile or greet my colleagues when I am in a bad mood. And beware when someone does something that upsets me, then they’re the worst human in the world! “How could Sarah expect me to do her work, she’s so lazy!” and then, then she’s lazy in my eyes and I forget that Sarah is a struggling human too. We forget that we’re all human. It is not about letting others get away with things, it is about looking at another person as just as tired, hurt and fucking over COVID-19 as you are. 

In this lies the secret. If we can look away from ourselves even for a few seconds and see the person (the whole person) in front of us, will the world not be a better place? If we respond to messages truthfully, RSVP on time and actually show up, not cancel last minute, treat the person in the office who’s really struggling as just like us instead of piling on more work, will all of us not have a better time in this shithole? 

Being the teacher I am, I thought about and researched, how we can do this practically and the answer is (drumroll please…) bring back old school etiquette. Not all of it. Certainly not the rule about a lady drinking only one glass of champagne or that you should smile when talking on the phone – seriously who thought of these? But there are a few brilliant and obvious ones that would make life easier and the world kinder.


Here is my list of what I feel is essential in a kind and happy community:

1) RSVP on time. 

I cannot stress this enough! I don’t know when last you hosted a gathering, but I always have to message people to ask again, and again whether they’ll be attending. It isn’t difficult, it’s as easy as a yes or no. And a maybe is not an acceptable response. Don’t try to be politically correct. If you want to attend, say yes and if you have something better to do, say no. No one wants you there if you don’t want to be there, but they also don’t want to be disappointed or angry when you don’t show up! 

2) When you make an engagement, don’t break it!

We do this too often. We make plans and then cancel them just before, because we realise we’ve double booked or we just don’t feel like it anymore (maybe you forget, like I do), but this is really rude. You are disappointing someone and wasting their time!

3) When dining out, give your full attention to your dinner date.

I am going to adapt this by saying that when you are in company give your full attention. We’re so obsessed with our phones that we forget there is entertainment right in front of us! If we bother to pay attention to our company, we might just have loads of fun that wouldn’t have on the couch at home.  I know we are tired of hearing this and kudos to all the people who actually put their phones away. But we should stop saying “yeah, I know you’re right” and actually do it!

4) If someone offends you, don’t sink to their level by offending them back. 

We all love a little revenge… We want the other person to feel how much they wronged us, but it won’t help. Offence is taken not given, a wise woman always told me. Choose to look past the offence and be the bigger person, not only will you feel better about the situation and yourself, but you might just show them how to treat people. Bless them and release them, my darling. 

5) Respect other people’s time.

Here I am speaking to myself. I’m known amongst my friends as always being late. They’ve even started betting on how late I’ll be at any given occasion. This is embarrassing, but true. I don’t intend to be disrespectful when showing up late, but I am. It tells people that you don’t care about their time and that is very rude. 

6) Respect others’ private property. 

His phone is not yours to look at. It’s easy to get confused when we live in a world where other peoples’ lives are on display. If we can see all these things about them on Instagram, why can’t we look at their phones, or look in their cupboards at home? We can’t because it’s their private property. The best way I can make you understand is by asking you how you would feel when someone goes through your phone or private property. You’d feel violated. Don’t violate others!

7) Never answer someone rudely or impatiently.

We have bad days. It happens to everyone, but that’s not an excuse to be rude to others. There’s no need to hurt another because you are suffering. This is easier said than done, I know. Sometimes we respond without even realising our tone. If you’ve met me, you know I’m the pot accusing the kettle with this one, but be mindful of checking yourself when speaking to others and when you slip up, apologise ASAP. 

kindness etiquette

There are many more we could discuss, but I think the point is clear. Respect others and be kind. The last rule I want to share with you, and the summary of all previously mentioned, is “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. Remember, you aren’t the only important person in the world. If we all respect others, you will be respected by default and you will feel seen, heard and appreciated.

Be kind, always. 

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