Politeness and Empathy

Kids can be rude. Young people don’t often conform to the standards of etiquette accepted by older generations. Despite the fact that this is a problem faced by every generation, technology has assured that, today, the gap between expectations and reality is wider than ever.

Where do these differences come from? Is technology itself causing a decline in the ability of youth to meet expectations, or is it something bigger? Yes, technology exacerbates the problem, but I believe the issue is larger than just Internet access and cell phones.

Understanding is a basic requirement of courtesy, and one huge obstacle to respecting each other is that we lack it. Technology has allowed different age groups to adapt in different directions, making it more difficult for us to empathize, and see each other as adhering to the cultural standards of our own social reality. A little empathy, from both sides, could go a long way toward bridging the gap.

Younger generations have developed a whole new structure of social rules to deal with new communication tools, while the older generations often maintain the old standards. It is easy to forget that we are communicating on different wavelengths. One way to start reconciling our differences is to open  a conversation about the codes of behavior we adhere to, and become willing to learn about what is considered polite by others. Dialogue is the first step toward the necessary understanding for greater mutual respect and cooperation.