Published: March 29, 2016, Copyright (c) Sandy Elrick
Hello everyone! I write about two words for this article on my day of birth for 2016. I am grateful to be alive and loved – some things people are not necessarily granted in this world. The two subjects above are things I hold in high regard. I appreciate and need to do more about every day. Courtesy is the art of being civil, of knowing what to say and when to say it, and how to appreciate your fellow man or woman in your life. Community consists of all of the relationships within your life. Without them, your life would be but a pale shadow of what it could be. I like to think life without courtesy would be pale also. It is the seasoning that makes life more enjoyable.
I recently watched a TED talk on what makes for a long, good life. After some 75 years, a Harvard Study of Adult Development has some interesting insights and it speaks to community and relationships. I invite you to listen and to enjoy. Perhaps it is this focus on those strong relationships that permits us to flourish.
Courtesy, my second topic, is one more of a dance than anything else. One must learn the graces of courtesy through practice and effort. It, along with other fine things in life, are a joy to be part of when you have mastered. If you have ever had the opportunity to enjoy a formal dining experience with staff who have made their career to be host, waiter/waitress, sommelier, etc. then it is a social dance unlike any other. It is an honour to be part of and a form of respect.
This day and age, we are blessed to be in a time when community can be so many things. It is also a time where our energy can be divided so many ways we lose focus on what matters. Strengthening relationships strengthens yourself and the community around you. Doing for others is an opportunity both to give of oneself and to be able to make someone else’s life a little better. The reward is the general well being you enjoy as well as the uplifting of others.
How many of you know your neighbours well enough to name them all and what they do for a living? Can you say the same for your network of professionals? Do you know the name of people you walk by every day? It s the gift of time that we are given and we are allowed to give to others. Purpose without contribution to the whole is limiting at best.
I realize as an introvert that community can be a tougher effort, but I have found that the effort is worthwhile. I believe that being lifted out of ignorance of what is around you is a blessing. I try to take a moment each day to acknowledge at least a few people whom I encounter. Whether they are cheery or are having a bad day, my interactions can have an impact. I must remind myself that my life gets far more interesting the more frequent I engage people.
Courtesy is something I will say I was ignorant of for a good chunk of my life. I am not counting the basic knowledge my parents bestowed upon me. I am eluding to the finer points of communication. Some are subtle and some are quite overt. I must say I am still mastering things and I expect I will for a long time to come. My personality somewhat demands that I enjoy some the finer things (and people) of life and I hope to explore more and more often.
One thing that goes hand in hand with courtesy is respect. Respect is a foundation of relationships (yourself and with others) that we base our human communications on. Without it, there is no proper discourse, there is a lack of dynamism, there is a dearth of joy (I like to expound on words, so please indulge me). A discussion requires respect (whether earned or expected) and courtesy sets the tone and stage for the continuance of words. Courtesy and respect together equal manners.
Courtesy is defined also by culture (using a lot of C words here, eh?). What is true for one culture may not be true for another. For example, I did not like seafood until I was in my 20s and 30s. I began to enjoy Japanese food and culture. There are subtle things you can learn and apply to a Japanese restaurant experience (learning how to say hello, thank you, and good bye in the native language is a treat). It is out of respect that you do so and doing so elevates your experience to a level you could never dream of.
Redefine Yourself in Manners
A faux pas or wrong step, can be a detriment to manners. That being said, it is the utmost of manners to acknowledge the wrong step and to learn from the error and move on (to save face). To give someone an opportunity to save face is a social grace of utmost standing. Social acceptance is again, a dance of manners, courtesy, respect, and interactions with those around us. Be forgiving and you are a gracious person.
Manners is a fine tuning of human nature. Knowing more about the person you are dealing with shows both interest and commitment to their presence in your life. Culture is a big factor when doing your best to make a good impression. So I recommend you read up on what is socially acceptable whenever you go someone different. Make an effort to understand and those around you will likely be just as courteous and understanding.
I will cite an example when I went Paris. Now, I am rusty on my François and have only had a few opportunities to use spoken French in my lifetime (I am still proud to use it). I can say without counter that only once did I have an issue with someone not appreciating my feeble attempts at using the French (Québécois) in tandem with some true French. In 10 days of wandering the streets and dealing with every day folks in Paris did I not feel welcomed. That, is the reason to engage and know your audience. It is the reason to present yourself as humbly and as openly as possible. If you are genuine, then you will more often then not succeed, despite your faults.
Manners (courtesy, respect) and being humble are hallmarks of a good citizen of this planet. How often do you offer up yourself without judgement and give the same in return? Do you communicate with genuine effort and good faith every day? I know it can be tough – but like all things, with practice, it becomes easier. Smile and the world smiles with you. Think about how you can do better (humbly), be empathetic, and you will succeed. Nothing speaks volumes more than your voice – use it wisely. The more you master courtesy, the greater your community will be and your effect on it.