Manners Or Sensitivity: What’s More Important for Cubicle Etiquette?



I was reading about sensitivity training and it got me to thinking…

Sensitivity usually requires some degree of relatability, but having good manners only requires imitation or compliance. Sensitivity is difficult (if not impossible) when it’s disingenuous, but good manners do not require empathy.

Here’s what I mean. Rudy grew up in the 70s and attended public schools in DC.  Suzy was home schooled in the 90’s, in rural Indonesia. Though both may feel loss, hurt, love, and joy, asking Rudy to relate to Suzy or Suzy to Rudy on most things, given the backgrounds that shaped them, may be a bit demanding.  They may never really feel each other’s joys and pains, because the life experiences that framed them are so different, but copying the same social conduct available to them both is not as demanding. In other words, Rudy and Suzy can both say please and thank you, whether they mean it or not.

Qualifier: One does not preclude the other.  We can be both sensitive and mannerly.

It would be nice if everyone were sensitive and let good manners just flow as a consequence of their sensitivity, but it is probably easier to just use good manners. Be polite. Say thank you; Please; Excuse me. Hold the door for someone else. Ask, don’t presume. Speak in complete coherent sentences. Make eye contact. Chew with your mouth closed. Clean up after yourself. Say good morning to people you know…unless it’s which case you say good night. Return what you borrow. Wait your turn to speak.

Those things are not about sensitivity as much as they are about plain old manners.


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