The lost art of common courtesy

standard August 27, 2012 Leave a response

I love talking to people — friends, coworkers, random strangers. I’ll chitchat with the guy at the burger joint about a trip to North Carolina; commiserate with the cashier about unruly children and complain about the weather with a random customer.

One thing that pops up more and more these days is a lack of simple and common courtesy. It’s not taught by a majority of parents, dropped from schools and completely forgotten in the workplace.

I’m not that old, I actually just hit a quarter of a century a year and a half ago, but observing people my age and younger is completely painful. I’m not even going to touch the topics of constantly texting, either in a formal restaurant or while driving, or the obsession with vapid television stars and who they are currently in bed with. Those things are trivial, honestly. 

What I have a problem with is that most people today constantly interrupt anyone who is speaking, because their sudden thought is clearly more important than anything else anyone might say; they critique others for a lack of respect (waitstaff, cashiers, etc.), when a simple “please” or “thank you” never escapes their lips; and they always bring the conversation back to themselves, instead of inquiring about others.

Some of the best conversationalists I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to were ones that listened, asked questions to clarify a topic, or simply just wanted to know more about a person. They shared information about themselves, but kept it light and engaging. They were genuinely curious about everyone they met, and left something behind at the end of every conversation – a smile. 

Personally, I’m not the best conversationalist. I’m shy, I tend to forget the punchlines of jokes more often than not, and my sense of humor is a little off. I know I could ask more questions about people, become more engaged with them, but when I try, my tongue seems to stick to the roof of my mouth. 

My complaint goes beyond the general public, though; people don’t respect each other in the workplace anymore. Employees are abrupt or rude with customers, or vent their frustrations at them. Email etiquette is a lost art, emails sent out with a general tone of “What do you want? Why are you bothering me?” or sent out in cutesy colors or an entire paragraph in the subject line. Coworkers interrupt other coworkers while they are talking with customers, vendors or potential applicants.

We spend so much time concerned with ourselves, instead of engaging with the world around us, and treating others as we ourselves wish to be treated. 

There is no one specific cause to the death of common courtesy, it’s been on the decline for years, but it is still sad to see it go.

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