Fix flattening of manners


What we learn when we were little with regard to manners, we let go off as we get older. Stubbornness, aversity, know-it-all, obstinacy, the names for the loss of manners are countless! It’s a coincidence that what gets lost can be relearned. Off to the kindergarten!

The problem

The loss of usage of manners we call flattening. This flattening is a self-nurturing vicious circle that seems unbreakable. The following points are to blame for this;

  • Not to be heard

  • Persistence (based on) personal experiences

  • Magnification disadvantages individualism

Let’s zoom in on these 3 points;

Not to be heard

Everyone can agree that there are moments in life when one does not feel heard. From small to large subjects and from youth to old. It is very hindering and regularly leaves (deep) scars in the individual. Not being heard goes against the physiological needs of a person. That being heard is of vital importance is underlined by René Spitz’s experiment in the 1940s.

Persistence (based on) personal experiences

People are molded according to how they are treated. This results in experiences where the cumulative experiences are bundled in a backpack. The weight of this backpack is determined by the approach of third parties to the experiences of the individual. It is striking that only the approach is accepted by the individual as socially accepted. Here is a sketch.

Looking at this sketch, there is a green line and a red line. The green line stands for socially accepted and the red line as not. Painful because excluding the red line will be just the solution to take the weight off the individual in that backpack. If the weight does not decrease (or worse, even increases), this creates bitterness. While reading the information for this article, we regularly came across that bitterness is seen as one of the most difficult subjects a human can have.

Because there are no solutions to reduce personal experiences (read: backpack weight), it will automatically become heavier because people are constantly pointed out delicately by daily worries. Eventually, this weight in the backpack reaches critical mass, and then there is no turning back. This is the persistence (based on) personal experiences.

Magnification disadvantages individualism

The world never stops. Social developments & interests on a socio-economic as well as geopolitical level represent a mirror for the train of thought of individualism. In Europe & America, where the ideas of individualism have been embedded for several generations, as well as used to this train of thought being superior to other lines of thought, people have been slackened.

This slackening is what the West is facing, and its first instinctual response is self-protection through self-imposed isolation from dissenters. This is a fertile breeding ground to start believing in one’s own view, which strengthens people to be even less tolerant of other thinking.

This behavior structurally undermines the foundation on which manners are built. Over time, people have forgotten to keep looking critically at themselves to remain challenged. In short, the way of thinking is under pressure from outside influence, especially collective ways of thinking, and that is why the view has degenerated that it is always up to the other, but let’s be honest, we don’t want this.

The solution

Social skills are taught from an early age. This is even considered part of a decent upbringing. In kindergarten, people learn these social skills day in and day out. The foundation that is being laid is what one will later continue to work on under different and more complex circumstances.

However, keeping up with social skills or manners is just like a flower, it needs maintenance. Nowadays adults can no longer go back to kindergarten (at most as mom or dad), but where can they go to maintain the manners?

3 … 2 … 1 … etiquette school! Yes, really, it exists. Just look here or here.

The bottom line is that people spend a lot of time and energy on manners at a very young age, but as we get older this flattens out and too little attention is paid to it. When a large population of people in a society relaxes in their manners, undesirable treatment arises. The 3 social problems that we have described above (read: flattening) are concrete examples that have arisen from the weakening of manners.

The conclusion

The flattening of manners has quietly crept into the Netherlands and its consequences are only now manifesting themselves. This creates a mental struggle because we are held up as a mirror. While an individual can lead by example, if he remains the only good example, he will tire.

In short, if we want a more polite Netherlands, we will first have to work on it ourselves (in large numbers). But how?


Time: 13 hours
Written by: Mariëlle Pax & Robert Velhorst