How many times have good manners stopped you from getting what you want?

There are two ways to look at good manners.

  1. They are the glue of a civilised society.
  2. They get in the way of living and getting what you want.

My good manners get in the way of getting armrests on a plane flight. It seems every time I hop on a plane, the man next to me takes my armrests. If I’m in the middle seat between two men. BOOM. Both armrests gone. It’s a small thing I know, but I seethe as I sit like a pencil for a whole flight and they sit for a whole flight without even realising they have a heightened sense of elbow entitlement.

For a while now I’ve been hoping to pass Bernard Tomic or Kanye on the airport travelator and just as we accidentally touch fingers across the rubber divide, we are hit by an eerie bolt of lightening (or even an eerie electric shock from a spilt Boost juice). We swap bodies Freaky Friday style and Tomic or Kanye (who are now stuck inside of me) get the middle seat between the entitled armrest men. Let’s see what comes out of my mouth then.

And as I’m now inside Kanye or Tomic, I won’t make a fuss when dealing with airport staff who have lost my luggage.

“It’s no problem my rackets have gone to Puerto Rico. Accidents happen Shirley. I’m sure Novak will lend me one of his for the Australian Open.”

“Sure Shirley. Kim can wait for her present. I realise you are doing your best.”

Obviously I can’t wait for a bit of Freaky Friday-ing with the boys to sort out my armrest situation. And, anyway, it only works when you hit your head and are struck by lightening — AT THE SAME TIME.

But how many times have good manners — being polite and nice — stopped you from getting what you want? Stopped you from getting what is reasonable to expect even?

Jackie Lunn or Kanye West? You decide.

Little girls are told to “be good”, “be nice”. Then they grow up.

You can’t run, fly or even take a nice walk when you are holding the door open for everyone else and saying sorry to them as they bump you on the way through. You can’t be heard if you let people talk over the top of you.

From women’s actions to language, we are busy being nice, not offending, taking up less room, apologising, limiting others’ expectations in case we fail, making sure others are comfortable at our own expense.

Helen Mirren famously said late last year that she wished she had told more people to ‘Fuck O**’ when she was younger.

“Unfortunately, at least for my generation — growing up we didn’t say [f*** off] — and I love the fact that girls are so much more confident and outspoken than my generation were.”

Tina Fey has jokingly said, “Bitches get stuff done”.

tina fey bitches get stuff done
Tina Fey. Image: Getty.

Sometimes, not being so nice and thoughtful gets you somewhere. Sometimes being too nice and thoughtful holds you back. Why can’t there be a spot in the middle that is JUST RIGHT?

It would be great if there was a giant, flashing line that reads: Cross and you will go from being a decent, good person to a tiny little speck that people are going to walk over.

There may not be a flashing sign that can tell us our manners, our niceness, are drowning us, but there is now an email plug-in that can help.

Tami Reiss, 33, CEO of a software developing company, has come up with Just Not Sorry, designed to highlight sentences and words (not unlike how misspelled words are highlighted) that qualify messages unconsciously diminishing a woman’s voice.

Warnings will appear over highlighted words and sentences such as demeaning what I have to say, undermining my gravitas and communicating an unnecessary sense of surprise.

tami reiss
Tami Reiss. Image: Twitter.

Red flag words include just, actually, I’m no expert, does this make sense and try with the software primarily designed for work usage where Reiss says women unconsciously hold themselves back with the hesitant and apologetic language in their emails.

Reiss told Reuters she came up with the idea after watching an Amy Schumer sketch where Schumer’s portrayal of accomplished women had them apologising profusely.

What also spurred her on was a Washington Post article that recast famous quotes if women said them in a meeting.

Instead of: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, the translation was: “I don’t think we should be as scared of non-fear things as maybe we are. If that makes sense. Sorry, I feel like I’m rambling.”

Those who use it, Reiss says, have become more mindful of the language they use when communicating and that makes her “happy”.

And Reiss won’t apologise for that.

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