Extending Basic Courtesy to All!

04/12/2015 02:05 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2015
Daniel Y. Go/Flickr

Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Courtesy is the gift of treating others with warmth and respect. It means affording dignity to people by being thoughtful, receptive and gentle in our dealings with them. Courtesy helps us remember our manners, not necessarily in a customary formal sense, but in the way we regularly and sincerely express gratitude, considerately acknowledge feelings and offer true friendliness. Courtesy enables successful interactions and negotiations, liberally laying a foundation for understanding and harmony.

Therefore, courtesy can be defined as a respectful act or expression of behavior marked by respect for others. Courtesy is also showing of politeness in one's attitude and behavior toward others, or kindness and consideration expressed in a sophisticated and elegant way.

Gary Chapman, an internationally-respected marriage and family life expert, says that courtesy, which is "the act of treating everyone as a personal friend," is rooted in the belief that everyone is worthy and valuable.

Treating all others with polite speech and manners circulates caring compassion and stimulates positive and enriching feelings of appreciation and human connection. Chapman urges us to remember that, "Behind every face is a struggling human spirit." The struggle can be from physical pain, illness, difficult relationship situations or financial stress. Most of the time we will not be aware of the nature of the hidden struggle, but we may be sure that everyone with whom we interact on any given day will be dealing with some kind of struggle.

Whether we are interacting with a stranger, a co-worker, friend, or a family member, we are experiencing a little slice of life, even if for only a few moments. We may disagree with his/her opinions or dislike his/her actions. In those few moments, we have the choice of connecting through courtesy or withdrawing through rudeness and disdain. If we make a commitment to activate the powerful energy of compassion in our lives and make it a part of our legacy, we shall seek to develop the habit of treating all others with courtesy.

Gary Chapman suggests a useful exercise to many of his clients during counseling sessions. Write the following five facts of human reality on an index card. Then think of someone who's hard for you to be courteous to, and say the sentences aloud with the person's name as the subject of each brief sentence:

1. All people are valuable.
2. All people have the potential to be a part of positive relationships.
3. All people are struggling.
4. All people need love.
5. All people are enriched by courtesy.

Afterward, we could feel the softening, opening effect in our attitudes and feelings toward this person. Just being courteous to other people can make you feel good about yourself. Yes, opportunities to be courteous are always before our eyes; the opportunity to do right things or to help someone presents itself every moment. How we respond to this is up to us. If we respond appropriately, we affirm the truest feelings and highest values life can give.

The phrases, "Please; thank you; I'm sorry; excuse me; you're welcome," may all be short, however, they are extremely meaningful. We must use them to show respect for others and for ourselves. Courtesy is taught in the home. Teach your children to be spontaneous and genuine when they say: "Please" and "Thank you." Such small courtesies in today's fast paced world are not only special, they are notable and the welcome exception!