Kirsti and I find few things more swoon-worthy than good manners and common courtesy, but it often seems that people today think minding their Ps and Qs means checking their phones and maintaining their quarrels. In 1986, a group of concerned citizens in England made similar observations about the lack of civility they were witnessing around them and formed The Polite Society (since changed to the National Campaign for Courtesy) with the goal of bringing awareness to the “behavioural problems of the nation.” To that end, they established a National Day of Courtesy on the first Friday in October.
Although there is a National Common Courtesy Day each March 21st in the U.S., Kirsti and I believe this is an issue worthy of repeated acknowledgement, so we encourage our own Society members to celebrate civility, praise politeness, memorialize manners, and commemorate courtesy today—and every day—in the following ways:
- Remember to say “please” and “thank you.” This is Courtesy 101, but you’d be surprised how often these words are left unsaid.
- Write thank-you notes—even if only by email or text—after receiving gifts and attending parties, or for any reason at all. I like to put notes on the doorsteps of houses in my neighborhood that are beautifully decorated for the holidays to let them know how much I enjoy their displays. People love to be appreciated!
- Ease up on the pedal when another driver wants to merge. It’s the journey, not the domination.
- Step outside of a store or restaurant to take a phone call if you must. You’re louder than you think. Really.
- RSVP by the date on the invitation. Someone thought you were special enough to include on their guest list. Don’t make them hunt you down for a response.
- Be on time. This is a huge one for Kirsti and me. To quote Vince Lombardi, “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.” Give yourself extra time to account for unexpected delays.
- Honor your commitments. I’ve grudgingly attended many events that I wanted to back out of at the last minute, only to end up having a wonderful time. People may have declined other offers, purchased food and drink, or cleaned their homes in anticipation of your arrival, so unless an actual emergency arises, don’t make excuses—just go!
- Respond to emails, texts, and voicemails in a timely manner. We all get busy, but it only takes a minute to write or say, “I’m swamped at the moment, but I received your message and will respond as soon as I’m able.” When you do respond, make sure to address each point in the original message. Nothing wastes more time than going back and forth.
- Save your comments until the end of the movie. Keeping a running commentary is the filmmaker’s job for the DVD extras—not yours.
- Hold doors for people. It may turn into a clown car situation, but you might restore someone’s faith in humanity and set an example for others at the same time.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a beginning. And while we’ve all slipped up from time to time, making a consistent effort to be courteous is what gives you a reputation as Someone Who Often Observes Niceties.
With the current atmosphere in our country, shining a spotlight on civility has never been more important, so now that you have your day in courtesy, spread the word and do your part to polite up the world!
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