COMMENTARY 921.5: Courtesy Is Kindness in Action

by Michael Josephson on March 5, 2015

in Caring, Compassion, Commentaries, The Good Life

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As a society we have become almost obsessed with identifying and asserting our rights – to think, say, and do what we want. That’s not surprising, given the history of our country and the prominent role the Constitution and Bill of Rights have played in shaping our culture.

We have a right to be unkind, thoughtless, and disrespectful — but it isn’t right.

Ralph Waldo Emerson pointed out, “Life is short but there is always time for courtesy.”

The idea is to act in ways that make the people we are dealing with feel valued. Courtesy is kindness in action.

It starts with good manners — saying please, thank you, and excuse me. But real courtesy involves more thoughtful ways of showing respect. Courtesy is a form of kindness.

It matters how we address people and how we greet them, as well as how we eat, talk, and cough in their presence.

Courtesy involves remembering important occasions, buying thoughtful gifts, and sending personal thank-you notes.

Making people feel important is part of courtesy, so it’s important to remember that whether or not people remember what we say or do, they do remember how we made them feel.

Make eye contact, truly listen, and show genuine interest in the lives of others by asking them questions and remembering their answers. A good start is to keep in mind H. Jackson Brown’s insight: “Everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something.”

Always be kinder than necessary because you can never be too kind.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda February 6, 2013 at 3:16 am

Great early morning read! Part of preparing to start my day and today is a day for me to show courtesy and genuine caring of others. It’s going to be a great day!


Glenn February 6, 2013 at 3:45 am

This one’s a keeper. Nice job.


Melissa February 23, 2014 at 8:29 pm

I really liked your article. It really got me thinking about what I can do to take time and be courteous.


pedro mendezona March 6, 2015 at 11:10 am

Very helpful particularly in present times.


Buck Edwards March 7, 2015 at 10:37 am

Always enjoy sharing your messages with the other MENTORS in our Hilton Head Public Schools.


Louie March 7, 2015 at 9:32 pm

The shortage of good manners and courtesy results from the lack of good parenting and role models, not the Constitution. We all know examples of poor parenting in our families, schools, and communities.


Lori March 9, 2015 at 5:55 am

Thank you, Michael. I plan to read this to HS students.
On a different note…can’t re-subscribe! Problem reaching the server. Please advise.


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