I often hear people say that common courtesy has become all too uncommon. As March 21 is National Common Courtesy Day, it seems the ideal time to reflect on what it is exactly, and why we ought to try harder to practice it more. As a starting point, I found a great definition of common courtesy from writer and consultant Tim Bryce: “Common courtesy represents a genuine respect for the human spirit and how we should interact.”
What qualifies as genuine respect? I asked some of my co-workers for examples of being treated with courtesy, and I’ll tell you, just reading the replies made me smile. Donna and JoEllyn each told of a stranger who did something unexpected and kind for them, which in turn inspired them to “pay it forward” to others. Paying it forward is a wonderful phenomenon, because one small act of kindness can spread exponentially to others. I know that even something as simple as someone holding the door for me can put a smile on my face and put me in the mood to do the same for someone else. Imagine – you make another person smile, and they pass it on even further – what a wonderful chain reaction!
I also asked: Why we are – or should be – courteous in our interactions with one another? Another co-worker’s response really helped me with that one. Marlene described how her office is occasionally surprised by free lunch from an appreciative customer. Making respect and courtesy truly commonplace in our lives can pay us back, through the reciprocation of those we interact with every day.
Maybe it’s a co-worker who comes back from lunch with your favorite treat to thank you for the times you’ve run errands for her in the past, or that customer who refers friends not only because of your work ethic, but also your welcoming demeanor whenever you greet him. Of course we don’t only show courtesy in order to get a tangible reward, but knowing that what goes around, comes around can certainly make choosing courtesy over contrariness an easier decision.