As an opinionated person, I often commit the faux pas of uttering my opinions out loud. (The worst is when I’m processing and haven’t totally finished thinking them through). I think people who disagree can be just as right, which makes proffering opinions tricky. Two points can disagree and still coexist healthily. (Mind you, this is only on an opinion level…such as sushi or schooling…)
The trick is emotion, and I think this is where I have trouble, as a passionate woman. How can I express an opinion without it being charged with emotion? Rarely can I express sentiments and compartmentalize that emotion. It is both a blessing and a curse; without feelings, there could be no reason. But reason on its own is meaningless.
Although society has generally cast off all rules of polite behavior, I still cling to a phantasm of hope that there are still people who hold to standards. In fact, I know they exist, because I’ve talked with a few. All of you who are cringing because you have a fear of rules due to the puritanical environment you grew up in…that is not the fault of rules; it was the abuse of rules that lead to the situation. Without structure, there is chaos.
As much as we rebel against it, we humans cannot live without order. I do believe that there is room for creativity and ingenuity within that order, and that is evidenced in creation, art, writing, music, technology, and more. Rationality is what keeps us grounded and sane.
This is where manners come in. While I have known basic rules of polite society my whole life, I haven’t shown an interest in the ins and outs until recently. What I have gathered from reading about manners and rules is that they are largely done for oneself and not others. Politeness stems from self-respect and the desire to treat others decently. Standards are set for the purpose of reflecting well on oneself and for making others feel comfortable.
Voicing opinions in public doesn’t usually make others feel comfortable; it often puts them on the defense. On hazardous topics (which are frequent among women), Miss Manners says,
Was there a true exchange of opinions? That needn’t mean that anyone ended up changing positions, only that they listened respectfully to one another’s point of view and debated the argument and not the goodwill of the person making it. Occasionally, she concedes, there is. People with manners have been known to participate in stimulating dinner conversation about hot topics—but only if they have the self-control to wait until getting into the car before saying, ‘I had no idea those people were such morons.’