COMMENTARY 867.5: Courtesy Is Kindness in Action

by Michael Josephson on February 20, 2014

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.

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