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Have Americans Become Less Polite?

stevendepolo, Flickr

When’s the last time you heard someone use the words “please” and “thank you”? According to a recent poll, it’s probably been a long time.

Last year, fully 76 percent of people surveyed by Rasmussen Reports said Americans are becoming less civil — and more rude. So what’s going on?

Lisa Gache, a “civility coach” and co-founder of Beverly Hills Manners in Los Angeles, blames the gradual vanishing of courteous language on the fact that we’ve lost our sense of formality, saying, “Casual conversation, casual dress and casual behavior have hijacked practically all areas of life, and I do not think it is doing anyone a service.”

Psychiatrist Gregory E. Smith agrees. “Simple things that we took for granted as children no longer seem to count,” he says. “Saying please and thank you, asking permission, offering unsolicited help, and following up on solutions to problems are no longer as important.”

He cites the recent example of an airport kiosk worker who rang up his purchase and handed it to him, all while having a conversation on her cellphone — something he calls “amazing” and “outrageous.”

Etiquette maven Cindy Post Senning, the great-granddaughter of politeness pioneer Emily Post, says norms, manners and mores change over time. Still, she added, “The principles of respect, consideration and honesty are universal and timeless.”


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