Good Manners Never Go Out of Style

2022 June portrait, WYO Writers

Even before I lived in France in order to improve my French, I knew that more is learned by listening than talking. That attitude helped me attune my ear to the nuanced words and was a great benefit to me.

After my U.S. Army Infantry husband and I were married and we went to his duty station in Illsheim, Germany, where he had already been serving, it was a whole new world to me. I’d never been around the military. In addition to the new environment, there was an unfamiliar language — Army-ese. The first week we were on post, as we visited with friends, I literally kept a list of new-to-me acronyms and words so I could follow future conversations. Things like MOS, POV, IG, CONUS, AIT, AO, FM, PCS, USAREUR, FTX, XO, LZ, SERE, CHAMPUS, MI, OWC, DITY move, TA 50, UCMJ, LES, and klicks. After we were back in our quarters, I asked my husband to define them, and it was a well-executed plan. It was soon easy for me to follow the comments. It was just another language to learn.

I could have interrupted the conversations each time there was something I didn’t understand but 1) It would have messed up the flow of the stories and 2) I was taught not to interrupt, unless there was a fire or blood. Apparently, that point of decorum has been lost to more than one generation. If there is something that needs to be clarified, wait until there is a lull in the conversation and ask. People who ask throughout the conversations, “What? Who was that? Where, etcetera?” are just plain rude. Just wait. Or better yet, listen. If you are not part of the conversation, maybe because you are on the other side of the room having a different conversation, but your ear picks up something, don’t just butt in. God gave us two ears, one mouth, and one brain. Use them well.

My family sometimes works together and they have conversations that are continued when they come in for lunch. I use the same technique as I did in the Army time. If I don’t follow the who or what, after most of them clear out, I ask my husband to fill in the blanks. Most of the time I can figure it out by just listening.

The same sense of decency should be followed when two people are having an in-person discussion, and you are a third person. Listen if you want, but there’s no need to interject opinions or even what you perceive as facts, unless asked. Often a two-person conversation opens up to others, and when so invited, more than the two can take part. Otherwise, keep your comments to yourself and address them at a later time, if you must.

Most of the time if eavesdroppers would just listen, they will learn the answer to the question they are contemplating. All in all, don’t be a butt-insky.

Peggy Sanders is a national award-winning columnist as well as an author. She can be reached through her website,

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