Boarding airplanes is one of those unique etiquette/life experiences that reminds me just how civil we all can be toward each other. I fly a lot, both for business and for personal trips, domestically and internationally.
Depending on the airline I might be in boarding group 2 or 3 or 4 or even higher. What’s amazing is how kind and generous people are as their groups are called to join the line to board the plane. For the most part, they don’t push and shove to get ahead of each other (even though it might mean losing the last open spot in the overhead bins for carry-on luggage). More than once I have had the person standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me look me in the eye and motion for me to go first. And that’s what etiquette is all about—showing consideration and respect for the people with whom we interact. Emily Post said it best when she defined etiquette as: “Whenever two people come together and their behavior affects one another, you have etiquette.”
I have experienced this behavior by the flying public so often that I know it’s not an aberration. People are actually showing consideration and respect for the strangers around them, and, in doing so, make the experience just that much more pleasant for all.
So, when people ask me if we, as a people, are ruder now than people were twenty or thirty years ago, I see examples of civility, like boarding airplanes, that belie that perception, in spite of the fact that 69% of Americans think we are ruder today.
My fellow airplane passengers have reminded me that etiquette is alive and well even if 69% of us think we are ruder today than we were twenty or thirty years ago. It’s the little, seemingly inconsequential, everyday interactions with our fellow man that prove that we still care.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."