When I was a kid my parents stressed the importance of being polite. It was often just about simple things: saying “thank you,” opening a door, or putting the dishes away. In many ways it was also about manners: greeting people, behaving at the dinner table, and respecting your elders.

As I grew older politeness evolved. It was more about being respectful and considerate of other people: helping a friend who was feeling blue, or simply listening to someone’s concerns.

When I was studying in the United States, I thought that it was somehow fake to say “nice to meet you” to a complete stranger, or ask someone “how are you doing?” when you really did not expect an honest answer. But I was wrong. At the end of the day, it was a polite way to kick off a conversation.

These days I often find myself thinking about how we treat one other. I am sure many of us followed the US presidential elections. The behaviour of some candidates and their supporters frequently crossed the line of respectful behaviour.

But it is not an isolated phenomenon on the other side of the Atlantic. Much of the discourse in Western parliamentary democracy has become offensive. It often seems to be a race about who can be the meanest.

The same thing goes for today’s media. The conventional wisdom seems to be that bad stories sell. I find it somewhat hypocritical when a newspaper speaks out against bullying on one page, and then proceeds to shred someone to pieces on another page.

Social media has brought another dimension to our possibility to behave, or misbehave as the case may be. When I give talks on social media I often say that our approach to what we type into our keyboards should be the same as it is when we meet a fellow human being face-to-face. The Internet is like an enormous living room. The only difference is that whatever you say on the net will probably leave a trace there for the rest of your life.

As a politician I am often the target of criticism. That is part of democracy and free speech. At the same time it is difficult draw the line – where does criticism become offensive or outright hate speech?

As a public figure I try to do my best to not offend anyone. It is probably impossible, but worth a try. As a parent I want to teach my kids about the importance of respecting others, much like my parents did. This is not mission impossible. On the contrary, good behaviour starts at home.

A few years back I wrote a Blue Wings column based on Stefan Einhorn’s book The Art of Being Kind. Einhorn argues that being a good person can make you happier, richer, more successful and fulfilled.

Those are four additional reasons to ask your fellow passenger how he or she is doing. Have a nice day!

2016 will be remembered as the year when liberal democracy turned its back on liberal internationalism. And unless something is done, it will also be remembered as the year of severance between Europe and the United States, including the demise of the West.

The voters in the UK said no to EU membership. Voters in the US said yes to a presidential candidate who promised to build walls and trade barriers. In a democracy you have to respect the choice of the people, whether you agree with it or not. Both votes symbolise the end of a post Cold War-era dominated by the EU and America. An era which leaned on international institutions and global capitalism and created unforeseen prosperity on both continents.

Much has been said about the reasons for Brexit and Donald Trump and their possible implications for the free world. Less has been said about what we should actually do about the new situation. We need to be both pragmatic and principled.

Lessons from history are often useful. After the financial crisis of 1929 Europe opted for nationalism, whereas the US chose protectionism. Both rejected globalisation. Europe caused the second world war. The United States saved us.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2009, nationalism and protectionism seems to be winning the day. Populist movements are on the rise. Brexit and the US elections could pave the way for similar votes in Italy, Austria, The Netherlands, France and Germany within the next 12 months. Less than a century later Europe and the US now have a similar decision to make. Will we opt for policies of disengagement or co-operation? I propose we do the latter. We should forge a New Deal between Europe and the US and it should be based on three pillars.

First, security. Europe needs to listen to what Donald Trump has to say on the cost of Nato. This means that European countries need to beef up their military expenditure whilst at the same time continue to develop the EU’s security and defence capabilities in close co-operation with Nato.

My fear is that President Trump might be tempted to strike a deal with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, on Nato enlargement — namely that it should not take place. This would leave a security political vacuum in northern Europe, especially Finland and Sweden, who are outside the military alliance but members of the EU. Their so called “Nato option” would be made null and void.

Second, foreign policy. Europe and the US must find a way to engage Russia in a principled way. This will not be easy. Russia detached itself from the international mainstream in the conflicts of Georgia (2008), Ukraine (2014) and Syria (2015). It has violated international law on all fronts. This cannot and should not go unpunished.

At the same time we must realise that international security is heavily dependent on Russian involvement. Here my fear is that President Trump will strike a deal on the basis of realpolitik by lifting the sanctions on Russia in exchange from a withdrawal from Ukraine and a joint plan on Syria. This would mean a de facto recognition of Crimea as a part of Russia.

Third, trade. No matter how unpopular a transatlantic trade agreement might be in the eyes of the populist left and right, there is overwhelming evidence that it provides growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. If a deal is not struck, the economic situation will deteriorate, populist movements will grow and someone else will set the standards of world trade.

The current trend in trade is towards bilateral, rather than multilateral trade agreements. Europe and the US should look towards China as a major trading partner. It might be too early to build a trilateral trade deal, but a potential failure of a transatlantic deal will certainly weaken the biggest trading block of the world. Not even the Great Wall prevented China from opening up.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was spot on when she said that “Germany and America are bound together by values — democracy, freedom, respecting the rule of law, people’s dignity regardless of their origin, the colour of their skin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views”.

Electoral outcomes, be they on Brexit or the US President, do not change the basic values which the West should stand for. It remains to be seen how those values are upheld in both Europe and the US. We should not turn our backs against those values, let alone turn against each other.

On the basis of these values we should work to renew the transatlantic bond. President-elect Trump says he likes to do deals. We need a new deal between Europe and the US, based on the respect of our common values. I also think that the only possible dealmaker on the European side is Chancellor Merkel.

Thomas Paine once said that “those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undertake to support it”. This is a timely message to protectionists and nationalists on both sides of the Atlantic. You either export security or import insecurity. The choice is for Europe and the US to make.

The optimist in me says that 2016 should be remembered as the year when we were able to show why transatlantic co-operation and liberal internationalism is not dead. The pessimist in me says that things will go from bad to worse. At least we have a choice which is entirely in our own hands.

Midsommaren 2016. Jag vaknar klockan 3.07. Kollar telefonen. Det kan inte vara sant! Det blir Brexit. Det skulle ju inte vara möjligt.

Den 9 november 2016 klockan 4.55 vaknar jag till en känsla av déja vu. Donald Trump blir USA:s president. Kan de vara sant?

Jo det är det. Världen får lov att leva med både brexit och Donald Trump. Demokratin har talat.

Det finns många av oss i Norden som skulle ha velat se ett annat resultat i både Storbritannien och USA, men vi hade ingen röst.

Själv hör jag till den generationen som har vuxit upp i en värld efter kalla kriget. Först som akademiker, sedan som tjänsteman och numera som politiker. Visst har det varit liberalismens tidevarv.

På 1990-talet levde vi i hopp om att demokrati, marknadsekonomi och globalism skulle bli världsnormen. Det såg bra ut. Våra värderingar – frihet, frihandel, integration, mänskliga rättigher, jämställdhet – hade vänner på alla kontinenterna.

Sedan kom 2000-talet med terrordåden i New York 2001 och finanssen 2008. På 2010-talet vacklade världsekonomin, Arabiska våren blev kort och Europa drabbades av asylkrisen. Populistiska och nationalistiska rörelser blev allt populärare. Autoritära regimer försvann inte.

År 2016 konkretiserar den osäkerheten vi sätt under de senaste 15 åren. Det blir året då den liberala demokratin vänder ryggen mot globaliseringen i både Storbritannien och USA.

Optimisten i mig säger att vi kommer att klara av bexit och Trump. Vi måste förstå att osäkerhet och förändring är en del av demokrati. Vi vet inte hur Storbritannien drar sig loss från EU eller hur Trump förhåller sig till Nato eller frihandel.

Samtidigt kommer situationen i Europa att förändras. År 2017 blir det val i Frankrike, Tyskland och Storbritannien. Brexit och Trump kommer att påverka slutresultaten. Hur? Det vet vi inte ännu.

Lätt blir det inte för oss som tror på integration, frihandel och globalism. Den lönar sig att vakna till en ny realitet. I demokrati är allt möjligt. Detta bör respekteras.

Den 9 november 1989 vaknade jag i USA till att Berlinmuren rasade. Frihetens tidevarv hade börjat. År 2016 har vi vaknat till en ny realitet. Jag hoppas att murarna inte kommer tillbaka.

I have never felt particularly talented. I have always been one of those guys who get excited about something (my wife would say obsessed) and then just grind it out. With a dream, a belief, and hard work I have, on occasion, managed to succeed. It has little to do with talent, more with just sticking to the task at hand.

That’s why I enjoyed reading professor Angela Duckworth’s New York Times bestseller Grit : The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Simon & Schuster, 2016). Her basic thesis is simple: the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent, but a special blend of passion and persistence that she calls grit. We Finns would probably call it “sisu,” which means a stoic determination.

Duckworth, a pioneering psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, bases her argument on years of in-depth research on military cadets at Westpoint, finalists at spelling contests, athletes, CEOs and writers, and many others. She narrows her findings into two neat and simple equations: talent + effort = skill and skill + effort = achievement.

We all have a little bit of talent at something. In order to turn that talent into skill, we need to give it some effort. Once that skill is combined with effort, we can achieve something.

Now, how often do you hear that someone has extraordinary talent in say, music, mathematics or sport? Sure, there are people who have a better starting point than others in a certain field.

But at the end of the day talent is often used as an excuse for explaining why we are not good at something. When, as a matter of fact, we can be as good, or almost as good, as the guy next to us, just as long as we work hard at it.

When I was writing my PhD at the London School of Economics in the late 1990s, I spent hours researching, writing, and revising. Doing it all over again, from morning to evening. And then all over again a few more times. Not something you can do without passion and persistence.

The good news is that Duckworth believes that you can grow your grit. You can do it by one of two ways. First, by cultivating your interests and habits “from the inside out.” Second, by learning from other people “from the outside in.”

So, there is hope for all of us. Developing a skill takes hours of practice and in order to do that you will need to be enthusiastic about what you are doing. Some persistence and endurance will help, and that skill may very well turn into what others perceive to be a talent.