• Jim Gagen

Old School and Etiquette

Where Has It Gone?

It seems to me that lack of etiquette has become more pervasive in all aspects of our lives lately. While I can be focused (or preoccupied) on other things when walking through halls or down the street and fail to acknowledge others, it appears that the general public has become more socially unaware. Either that or they just don’t care.


While relaxing at a historic bed and breakfast during the recent holiday weekend, one of the other guests showed up at the community breakfast table wearing a t-shirt many would considered extremely objectionable. Also at the table was another adult who ATE HIS WAFFLES WITH HIS HANDS! Others were oblivious to the server, almost knocking the coffee pot out of her hand by reaching for butter, jelly or other items while she was trying to pour coffee. Not wanting to ruin the wonderful breakfast our host had made, I sat quietly and didn’t make a big deal over what I considered inappropriate behavior by these adults. After all, isn’t that what social media rants are for?


Who, What, Why?

It’s not like it’s a generational thing or immaturity, as all these folks were in their 50s or older and one woman had her teenage son with her. It’s not like it’s a technology thing as nobody was preoccupied with their smartphone. It’s also not like they weren’t taught better as all the adults were well-educated professionals. There seemed to be one common thread linking all of them, making them all seem so self-absorbed and disinterested in what others thought.


Observations, Questions and “Old School” Answers

Rather than try to assess whether something has changed in our society, or if these people have always been like this, as a student of human behavior, business person and marketing/media consultant, I wondered:

Q. Are these people like this in business or professional settings?

A. If these self-centered people are your clients, accept them and do your best (after all, isn’t the client always right?). If people like this are at your agency, hide them from clients.

Q. How do you market to people who know it all?

A. Don’t hard sell them. Appeal to a higher order or “social good” of your product or service (notice how many “green” products there are nowadays?). If possible, make them feel like they came up with the idea themselves.

Q. How do you reach narcissists?

A. Advertise on mirrors and through social media campaigns (because everyone wants to know what they are doing, see their latest selfie and vice-versa).


While we’d all like to work with people who are courteous and socially aware, sometimes it isn’t always possible. In these cases, it’s best to use the guidelines above or have a sense of humor.

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