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Have you heard the word Couth? If you heard it in a sentence today, would you be surprised to hear it? How often is such a word used in the current young adult population? Is the rising generations taught this word and the meaning of it? And should they develop it? I think so, yes they ought to, and let me expand on why.

A few months back I was talking to a hard working self made man. At an unbelievably young age, he was able to retire and live a life of financial independence. He chooses to work currently because he was raised to work hard and wants to, not because he has to. He has not been tethered or weighted down by debt; he pays for everything with cash, and is able to have the freedom to do what he wants, when he wants to. Young adults or kids look at him and ask him how can they tread those very same spaces. They ask as if in a relatively short amount of time, they could be in the very same space if they just follow the plan or steps he shares with them.

His response is simple and profound…earn it, work hard for it, learn how to hustle, and be patient with the process, because when you put your own skin in the game and earn your own way, it is hard not to have more value and appreciation for that which has been accomplished or acquired. He notes in his younger days, the hard-working hours put in with his father running duct lines, and installing heating and air conditioning units. He shares the three hard labor jobs he had at 16, and later on in his 20’s working up to 80 hours a week to make a business successful. Nothing about this incredible man’s past speaks of a life of ease, or comfort growing up. Raised in a big city on rough side of town, it was survival, hustle, tenacity, figure it out, problem solve, and HARD WORK.

Often as he shares a snapshot of his story, he loses his audience, their eyes start to gloss over and the non-verbal disengagement is seen, they pay lip service to what he shares, but they have stopped truly listening. Is this because it sounds harder than they wanted it to? He knows it; he sees it in their faces, their ears have turned off. He smiles, shares anyway with the hope that where one doesn’t have the patience to absorb what he is saying, another someday will.

He looks at me and notes that many of the young adults and kids these days need to have more patience and a willingness to work hard, to put in the time, and to build stamina in layering a life for themselves. He is wise beyond his years, been places most people dream about, and has a deep respect and awareness of how to be fiscally smart, disciplined, and well rounded with his life. Then he says it to me, Jen on top of all those pieces, many in this generation don’t have couth, more of the kids these days need to know what that word means, and beyond what it means, weave it into how they show up in their lives.

The definition of Couth: to be sophisticated, polished, cultured, refined, and well mannered. How does a young adult in this day and age develop couth? Where would one start? How would doing this help with becoming an independent young adult?

Developing couth comes from life experience, it is learned. Young adults have to have an appetite for learning, and at times this day and age, is a difficult appetite to develop. Patience and time are key requirements to learning, which many young adults struggle with because they can be largely impatient. Learning from and creating experiences over time is a powerful teacher for young adults to understand better.

In re-examining the definition of couth: to be cultured, refined, and well mannered it is important to understand the HOW to be cultured, HOW to be refined, HOW to be well mannered. How many young adults really hold the space of this definition?

Becoming cultured happens in various ways. Increasing education and training helps to expand one’s knowledge base, opens the mind to more possibilities and more opportunities. Furthering one’s education or professional trade training is a key piece for young adults to think about. Taking an interest in politics and understanding the framework of what our nation has been built on is often missing knowledge in the young adult population. We live here in the United States of America, and we take full advantage of the freedoms and privileges that come with being American. We all as Americans then need to understand the rich deep stories and experiences that have forged this nation, and the different dynamics that make up our government. Understanding the fabric and framework of what makes America amazing should not be lost on any American young or old. Young adults need to know and talk about this well.

Watching the news and different various educational/news programs is another way to expand the mind and become cultured. Engaging in understanding local and world events creates awareness and a bigger picture that helps one look outside of themselves. It creates a macro view rather than a self-centered microscopic viewpoint. Every young adult ought to figure out how to at some point, see the world as bigger than what is immediately around themselves. This is a key part of maturing and enriching one’s character.

Developing refinement is more finite and I think hones in developing particular tastes, and having knowledge as well as being able to speak about these different things. For example going to the ballet, listening to classical music, knowing which wine goes with what are some examples of how to create refinement. Some broader examples that fit with more different types of people would be owning a library card and using it regularly, broadening one’s musical horizons, write/journal often, watch all different kinds of films, and understanding art better is a short list of some ways to become more refined.

Notice as we explore the quick snapshot of what it means to be cultured and refined how it speaks to creating and having experiences. Life is our greatest teacher and engaging in it, in multiple different ways is the biggest piece to young adult character development and gaining consistent maturity.

The last piece to developing couth I believe is the most important and the hardest one to consistently find in the young adult population of this generation. Becoming well mannered begins with the framework of respect. Respecting others, their opinions, being open to feedback and discussions, rather than be reactive or avoidant creates a solid framework for a well-mannered individual. Using polite words often like please or thank you seems simple, but create long ripples to having healthy relationships. Modeling manners and using the names of people you are engaging with. Small examples like holding the door open for people and speaking politely without using swear words as fillers is a huge piece in having a strong verbal well mannered presentation.

In closing, developing couth is an essential part of young adulthood and young adults need to tune in and engage in learning it. The 20’s are such pivotal years where young adult are really figuring themselves out more on their own. Becoming well mannered, refined, and cultured helps broaden one’s personality and ability to navigate the world as an independent young adult much better.


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