Often we’re rushing around so much that we become incredibly intolerant of others. Time has become a measurement of how much needs to get done, and life is a daily race.

Often we’re rushing around so much that we become incredibly intolerant of others. Time has become a measurement of how much needs to get done, and life is a daily race.


Sadly, many of us live under the illusion that when we reach the finish line we will feel relief. This becomes a daily ritual that, in and of itself, causes a great deal of stress and leaves us frustrated and unable to connect in a civilized manner.


The irony of this mind-set is that the very opposite is true. If we slow down and take the time to be polite and considerate, we actually have more respect for ourselves. When we act more humane, our minds and bodies are freer to be more present and focused; therefore, we are more productive.


When I was a child, my grandmother spent hours teaching me manners. My mother worked, so it became Grandma’s responsibility to create her ideal: a dignified, gracious human being. Anything else would not be tolerated, and if she witnessed anything less, she would repeat over and over that I was acting like an animal.


Don’t chew with your mouth open. Put your fork down when you’re not eating. Think before you speak. Don’t mumble.


These instructions, plus many more, had a dual purpose: They helped me function better in society, and they were a source of pride for her. To my grandmother, there was no greater sin than being ill-mannered; it brought disgrace upon her good name.


For that she reserved the ultimate punishment: silence. Silence from an elderly Sicilian grandmother can be compared to life imprisonment. An entire act accompanied the silence: big sighs, heavy walking while she prayed for your soul, and hand gestures similar to what the Roman emperors gave to those who were about to die.


Finally, my grandfather would intercede by yelling, “Basta” (enough). He was the only one who could end the punishment, aside from God.


Human survival is dependent on healthy relating. People interacting requires understanding, kindness, consideration, compassion and acknowledgment – which is what manners are all about.


The poet William Blake sums it up beautifully: “Everything that lives, Lives not alone, Nor for itself.”


Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Mass. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth 02360, send e-mail to getalife@lorettalaroche.com, visit the Web site at www.stressed.com, or call toll-free 800-99-TADAH (82324).