Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer


Posted by Dr. Vollmer on September 6, 2011

   Manners, good ones, make me think the person is well-meaning; bad manners make me suspicious of the person’s motivation. At the same time, I am aware that manners are superficial and they can be learned. A well-mannered person can stab you in the back and a poorly mannered person can be there when you need him/her. Brad, twenty-two, is an extremely polite young gentleman. He stands up when a woman stands up. He opens doors for women, although he is sensitive to the fact that some women do not appreciate that. He says please and thank you, often, but it never feels put-on or ingratiating. His manners impress others and in turn, he feels good about himself. Stuart, also twenty-two, has a hard time with what he calls “small talk” but what I would call manners. He is often too nervous to make eye contact, although when he gets comfortable, that is no longer a problem for him. He says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ but it is barely audible. In general, new people to Stuart try to avoid further contact with him. In contrast to Brandon, who people seek out, Stuart has a large problem with making friends and finding new communities. Yet, Stuart is a deeply caring, considerate person. If he knows you, he would remember your birthday. He would inquire about your sick relatives and he would remember what was the most salient part of your last conversation. In essence, manners and extraversion seem to go together. It is not so much that Brandon is well-mannered, it is more important that he enjoys engaging with strangers, whereas Stuart gets anxious in the presence of unfamiliar people. This difference in personality trait comes down in terms of ‘social skills’ or ‘manners’, but really it is more a matter of introversion versus extraversion. We tend to judge strangers on how they make us feel. Brandon knows how to make new people feel good about themselves. That ‘technique’, if you will, is elusive to Stuart. They are both good people.

2 Responses to “Manners”

  1. Shelly said

    What do manners have to do with introversion or extroversion? Manners are taught by parents to children from a young age. At Brad and Stuart’s age, manners should come by rote–regardless of introversion or extroversion. Introversion or extroversion (or my interpretation of the words, at least), how we engage other people, are social extensions of ourselves. One, the introvert, keeps his own counsel and may be shy and hestitate to engage; and the other, the extrovert loves to talk and be active and party, go out drinking after work with his buddies. Doesn’t the art of small talk have to do with one’s personality and comfort zone (and not manners)? Could Stuart be slightly “on the spectrum” or not have the social skills necessary to engage others?

    • shirah said

      I think manners have a lot to do with introversion/extroversion. Parents can teach manners, but if a person is uncomfortable with people, it is hard for them to use their manners. Sure, Stuart could be on the “spectrum,” but I think we are all on the spectrum, and that is part of my point.

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