COMMENTARY: Courtesy is Kindness in Action 749.3

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.

Comments 4

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  1. As an elementary school counselor, I am committed to helping build young children’s characters, and laying a solid foundation that will keep them grounded throughout their adulthood lives. If ethics and moral values are instilled in individuals during their formative years, they are more likely to exhibit the character traits that are positive and right. Michael, thank you for such an insightful article, and for reminding a generation that good old fashioned manners are still relevant and appreciated.

    Rena Giles-Rice, EdD., NBCT

  2. “Kill them with Kindness”, “Until you walk in their shoes….”, Treat others as you want to be treated”, and my favorite from my Mom, “You can catch more flies with honey.” are mottos/quotes that I attribute to my success in my professional undertakings and everyday life.

    Of course, I had to tell my Mom, “Ooo! Who wants a lot of flies.”

    In the small town I moved to two years ago very few people deliver complements. Guess it’s so small they’re more like family members (unfortunately) than friends and neighbors. When I tell someone how nice their hair looks, or how cool their attire is, or any complement there’s always a look of disbelief and “Who Are You?” before they acknowledge the comment.

    It has always amazed me how most of us take our family for granted. We’ll treat people we hardly know, much less love, better that we do family members. Considerate comes from consider. We should do that before we heep expectations on each other.

    You are correct Sir. You can never be too kind.

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