Courtesy in our Everyday Lives
Might it be true to say that the more developed a country is the less courteous its people become, in general? We seem to care less about others, as we focus more on our own.
In today’s super charged, super occupied world, everyone is involved in so many different activities, that basic courtesies can sometimes be ignored. A pleasant word, however, or a kind deed could make a world of difference in someone’s life and in our own lives. Courtesy can bring joy to those we meet and also to ourselves, and can make someone else feel good. We all want to feel good, and it is how we interact with others that leaves us feeling either good or unpleasant.
Too Many Instances of Lack of Courtesy
We see so many instances of lack of courtesy, it is easy to focus on those rather than the few instances of courtesy which may cross our paths as we go about our daily activities.
Holding a Door
Don’t you feel pleasantly surprised when you’re walking into a Mall, or business place and someone ahead of you looks back and holds the door for you, instead of letting it swing back in your face. You say “thank you” and you smile, because you feel good that someone could be thoughtful.
Today, in our busy western society, that could be a pleasant surprise, but in some other cultures, holding the door for the person behind is the norm, and not the exception. To make it the norm, we must instill the habit in our children to look back before letting the door swing back behind them. If someone is close behind, they must hold the door for them.
But when the door swings back in someone’s face, how do they feel? A bit taken aback, surprised, disappointed, hurt, even angry, especially if they did not see it coming. But the change in habit has to start with us. If I look back and hold the door for someone, then that person will look back (hopefully) and hold the door for someone else.
Courtesy in Line
Sometimes we have to slow our minds downs, especially when we have to wait in line. We’ve seen some very discourteous behavior when people are in long lines. Even “good” people can “lose” it and say some pretty unexpected things when they have to wait in line longer than expected. Some may even try to find a friend who’s further up, start a conversation, remain chatting and then slip into the line; in the process, being unfair to those who were there before and in front of whom they are slipping in. There’s a phrase that says “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
Several weeks ago, I was coming out of an ATM. As I opened the door two people rushed toward me. One was a male, who happened to get to the door first. For some reason, I thought he would allow me to get through the doorway first, instead he stepped on my foot in his rush to get in before the young lady. My reaction was physical rather than verbal, as I rolled my eyes in disbelief, but another lady in line, verbalized what I thought, “whatever happened to “male chivalry” (little ways men show that they’re gentlemen). Perhaps that young man didn’t even know about such a concept; was never taught; had no good male role models in his life. All he knew is that he was in a hurry and needed to get in before the young lady.
Courtesy Requires a Little Patience
Being busy or over occupied could make way for impatience, and impatience could breed discourtesy. The more I think about courtesy, the more I feel convinced it is about slowing down from our own busyness, and focusing more on how we relate to others. How we treat them.
Do we want to trade courtesy and pleasantries for busyness? If we do, what would we have when we are no longer busy? Perhaps courtesy requires a bit of patience.
Courtesy Reflects Who We Are
Courtesy reflects who we are and might also reflect our upbringing. Kudos to those parents and grandparents who teach their children courtesy and how to behave at home and away from home. If children are rude, or discourteous, at home, it goes without saying that they would naturally be rude and discourteous to others.
The Greeting: An Important Element of Courtesy
The “greeting’ is an important element of courtesy. We can lighten up tensions in our office every morning when we walk in by putting on a smile, and saying a pleasant “good morning” to everyone. It wouldn’t hurt. In fact it would lighten up tensions in your office.
Sometime ago, I was told about a supervisor who walks into her office without greeting any of her staff. This does not augur well for good office relations; and it happens in a lot of offices. Even if you’re displeased about something, being discourteous is not the way to handle it. Perhaps you were transferred, perhaps your boss corrected you, perhaps you have other issues, not even related to work. Going into your office and being discourteous to your staff only adds to your distress; leaving you with more uncomfortable relations in addition to the source of the problem. You leave people to wonder what’s wrong with you, they try not to say anything to you, they try to stay out of your way, they whisper about your behavior. That kind of behavior shows that you are a discourteous unpleasant person, unable to handle your own issues in a proper way.
Pleasantries and Compliments
Courtesy at work is more than just giving a pleasant greeting on arrival. It could also be about the pleasantries and compliments we exchange during the day, whether about work well done, about a new outfit or hairdo. But we must keep it balanced, and positive; and make sure it is not seen as harassment. In the process we must use the right tone and intonation.
Courtesy while Driving
Courtesy is necessary while driving too. As our roads become more congested with more vehicles, it takes a longer time to get where you want to go, especially during rush hour. If we’re not patient while driving, we could become angry and unreasonable with others on the road. We can only see that the other person is wrong, that they should have slowed down, and let us through or they should have seen that I was already ahead. The ugly side of us could come out, because some drivers could do some pretty stupid things.
We must remember that sometimes we too will need courtesies extended to us. When someone is on a side road, waiting to join a long line of traffic, it will be the considerate and courteous driver to slow down and give him/ her a break. And it is said that courtesy goes around. If you give someone a break today, that person will give someone else a break another day, while someone else will give you a break another day. What goes around, comes around. It’s true.
And by the way, when someone gives you a break in traffic, the least you can do after or while joining the traffic is to give that one little toot of your horn or wave a thank you. Being grateful is also a form of courtesy. Courtesy reflects gratitude.
Courtesy to Pedestrians
When we’re driving we must also be courteous to pedestrians, not only those on the pedestrian crossing. Drivers sometimes seem to be more busy than those who are walking. Perhaps because we leave later, expecting to get where we are going faster, not expecting any traffic or delays, and when we meet those, we are impatient, and no one must be in our way. We also need to remember that there are other road users, and we also have to give pedestrians a break too, even where there might be no pedestrian crossings. We especially need to be mindful of children walking along or wanting to cross. When allowing someone to cross, be careful to block other vehicles from over taking you while you’re doing it: use your hands, use your horn, put on your hazard lights, anything to draw the attention of drivers that you are stopping or have stopped to let someone cross.
There is so much more we can say about how we can incorporate courtesy into our everyday lives, but the above is a good start. Let’s try looking for ways to be courteous to others. It reflects who we are.