Etiquette is a subjective control mechanism.
Etiquette is extremely important to those who believe in/adhere to/follow/cite it. Yet all our definitions of etiquette are subtly different.
Aside from the obvious and vast array of different cultural forms of etiquette (and ceremony and tradition), on a day to day basis there are huge differences between us too.
I don’t like to hug when I say goodbye, yet some I’ve known have felt it rude when I won’t. You leave some people’s texts longer to reply to than others’, and you have your fair reasons for that. I only let drivers out of difficult looking junctions if they’re sitting back patiently waiting. Some people stand extremely close to you in the corner shop queue, don’t they – what’s that about?
Etiquette is subjective, yet it is important.
Etiquette is so important in fact that many people get upset when what they know as good etiquette (or manners, social norms, common sense, etc) is not demonstrated. Often to the degree that they will confront strangers and/or complain/comment to others about a lack of respect. And sometimes to the extent that things like policies or local bylaws or even national laws are amended to control the behaviour of those who acted in a way unaligned to the etiquette beliefs of the offended person.
Etiquette (how we do and don’t like to be treated, and how we do and don’t like to see others and things treated) is deeply rooted in each of our specific human connections and experiences. So it’s extremely hard to realise that our own sense of right and wrong is not universal.
Based on our own processing of our own experiences and the guidance/teachings of those in our familial/friendship echo chambers, there could be no other sense of etiquette than our own.
But we are deluding ourselves into division.
Etiquette is deeply emotionally subjective, and it is extremely important.
When your own emotional experiences drive the behaviours you expect of others and when their experiences drive the behaviours they expect of you, it is fairly unlikely you’ll both have exactly the same set of understandings and expectations. It is much more likely you will disagree, to some extent.
Disagreeing on something so important and so emotionally subjective can cause friction, competition, disappointment, judgement, stress, etc. in human relationships.
When behavioural expectations are starkly mismatched, who of us (in a perfectly equal world) could ever fairly say which set should thrive and which should be forgotten? Which person’s sense of right and wrong should win out?
In this globalised world, we are all now right at the heart of that difficult question.
Societally, personally, and interpersonally, whether we are noticing it for what it is or whether we are frustrated and confused by what is going on around us, we are all beginning to re-engage with and re-negotiate about things we’ve already learned from (upon which we’ve each built our own senses of etiquette), while also learning to accept/allow the behaviours of others that we have an undesirable emotional response to.
It’s a complex thing. It pulls you two ways. It pulls us all two ways. It is pulling our world two ways. Who am I kidding?! It’s pulling our world apart at the seams, in billions of minuscule (almost imperceptible) directions.
We’ve got to be strong to keep it together, for ourselves and for everyone. We’ve got to rely on one another. To succeed together, we must find a way to show love to every person – even if they don’t behave as we’d like – while also ensuring our personal needs and boundaries are communicated and met.