Never hide behind a computer

In early July Kate Reardon, editor of the high-society glossy magazine Tatler, gave a speech to 200 female students at Westonbirt (Private) School in Gloucestershire, England – and touched off a storm of criticism in the penny-dreadful press.
It seems they – the tabloids and would-be tabloids – were upset because Reardon advised the students as they prepared to enter a university or the work force that good manners could be more important than good marks. “It doesn’t matter how many A-levels you have, what kind of degree you have – if you have good manners people will like you. And if they like you they will help you.”
Ridiculous, chorused the popular press. It was anti-feminist to try and persuade teenage girls that politeness and good manners should take precedence over high exam marks and university degrees. Reardon’s message, they claimed, was out-dated. Good manners were out in 2014, overwhelmed by the twittering classes and abandoned long ago.
Anyone reading the full text of Reardon’s speech will wonder how critics could arrive at that conclusion because she emphatically stressed throughout her speech that success in any endeavour could only be obtained via disciplined hard work – enhanced by good manners.
She listed three ingredients for success in life and at work: Manners. Tidiness; Communication.
“I’m not talking about manners in some weird way about using the right spoon for soup or eating asparagus with your left hand,” she said. I’m talking about being polite and respectful and making the people you interact with feel valued.”
On tidiness: “Be tidy and organized. Being chaotic isn’t cute. Being shambolic isn’t endearing. Life is tough enough already, the competition for anywhere you lot want to go is unbelievably tough. Why would you want make the process any harder than it has to be? Being organized isn’t some divine gift, it’s just a muscle, and it’s entirely up to you whether you want to develop it.
“Once you have an actual job, being kick-ass efficient and organized will get you promotion and earn you more money.”
Her appeal for more attention to good manners, decency and fairness when dealing with others is one to which we should all pay heed. It is a vanishing commodity in all levels of modern society where even most modest courtesies have disappeared; where being polite is too often regarded as weakness rather than strength.
Reardon found a way from her late teens to the editor’s chair at Tatler with a successful blending of hard work and good manners. It wasn’t an easy ride to the top. (The full text of her speech can be found on the Tatler.com web page) She saved her toughest recommendation for success – the one today’s young people will find the hardest to control –until the end. It was third on her list of three vital ingredients for success:
“Communication. I would argue that confident, verbal self-expression – the ability to express yourself with confidence and self-awareness – is now more important than it has ever been. You (students) have all grown up with so many digital ways of avoiding face to face eyeball to eyeball interaction. Never hide behind a computer or mobile phone if you want to communicate your truth – they need to know who you are, and they need to understand you.”
Any teenagers stumbling across this advice while wandering the Internet should read it again, slowly, and consider Kate Reardon’s wisdom. And any parent reading this far and having teenage children willing to consider the viewpoints and advice of others should steer them to Tatler.com or persuade them this digest is worth a glance.
And before I forget: Any reader wishing to contact me personally will get a reply from jhume@shaw.ca

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