One who is courteous and cultured deliberately attempts to be civil and polite under all circumstances, come what may. One who is sophisticated and refined also chooses to follow the etiquette and adopts the righteous way of conduct with others even in the most trying times. Our civility, courtesy and cultured approach towards others make us human and humane, and define us.
My mother, who single-handedly raised me and my siblings, taught us these principles of life and living quite early on in our lives and inculcated them deep in our beings. Her life lessons and learnings have profoundly influenced me all through. They were deeply ingrained in my being and stayed with me long after she was gone. What troubles me is to see how these life values are mostly conspicuous by their absence in our younger generation.
Let me explain what I mean when I say one who is courteous is always calm, composed and quiet. More importantly, one must learn to lend an ear to all but refrain from saying everything that one thinks. This restraint comes with age and experience, I agree, but one can start conditioning oneself right from childhood. The most significant difference between being couth and uncouth is the tone and tenor of one’s voice. If one can master one’s voice, one can rule the world, vanquish one’s enemies and emerge victorious. She taught that being soft-spoken doesn’t mean being diffident; instead, it is a great character strength and a defining trait of a good upbringing. Still waters run deep, she would often say, and so I still believe. She despised raising one’s voice because being loud may do more harm than good, is what she told us. Voice is the medium that conveys our message, and how one says what one wants to say is what makes the real difference. One can take a firm stance by being courteous, polite and calm, and without raising one’s voice. The command over one’s voice requires a kind of maturity that often seems missing among today’s children, and it pains to see their inconsiderate, unruly and unkind behaviour towards their youngsters, peers and even elders, in private and public conversations. Their conversations are more of a noise and nuisance to others, but unfortunately, these youngsters are unmindful of this habit that may do them more harm than good in the long run.
The second most important thing that my mother taught us was to be patient while listening. She said listening helps us understand, increases trust, improves relationships and reduces conflict. She often emphasised that one must let the speaker finish their bit first and patiently wait for our turn to speak. Well, today, you cannot complete a sentence without being stopped midway, and that annoys me no end. The most livid examples are our television news debates, which are more of a nuisance than information, where only two people have the right to speak, either the news anchor or the one allowed to air their views.
Her third piece of advice for mindful conversation was to respect the elders and listen to them carefully, without interrupting and interjecting them in between. This too, is long foregone, and I see none following it, not anymore.
The list of my mother’s life lessons is long; I fondly remember her and deeply admire her parenting style, and I will keep sharing these nuggets of wisdom with you as we go along. But remember that as a parent one must practise what one preaches to children. That way they learn better.
(Cover Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)