Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Mind Your PS and Qs

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Mind Your PS and Qs

Article excerpt

The older I get, the more certain I am that Hannibal Lecter had the right idea. I'm not advocating creative serial killing in general, but I do believe that Dr Lecter's stance on poor manners was a lesson for us all. I'm not insane: I only applaud the old chianti-and-fava-beans treatment for adults. It's not fair to judge the young people we teach on skills that they may not have had the opportunity to learn.

Demonstrating respect and empathy through a simple please, thank you or even the occasional apology can make an enormous difference to other people's days. I often find myself quietly seething in a supermarket queue, believing that the cashier hasn't clocked the snake of red-faced shoppers, only to feel my rage evaporate with five simple words: "Sorry to keep you waiting."

Effective communication is just one of the essential qualities we're currently referring to as "soft skills". A few years ago these same characteristics (interpersonal skills, problem-solving, confidence, resilience, initiative) were given an aspirational makeover and fiercely marketed as "entrepreneurialism". In some colleges they are described as "employability skills". And among those wanting to put an academic spin on matters, they are touted as "emotional intelligence".

This collection of traits should be promoted and modelled in every single session. Show respect by being on time, work hard even when it's difficult, be kind, be polite and be aware of how your words and actions make other people feel. This is basic but essential stuff. It's what parents should teach their kids, but we know that not all of them do or are able to, so it's left to us to pick up the slack. …

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