Common Sense and Common Courtesy
So much of what we do today is based on common sense.
Common sense is essential to showing that we are actually
paying attention to what we are doing in our business and personal
lives, and what we are saying through our various forms of
communication. As decent folks, we are
naturally kind and friendly, primarily because that is how we like to
be treated. A healthy society relies heavily on these dynamics in
order to survive. It's just plain common sense to want to go through life
in a reasonable way, pleasantly interacting with our fellow human beings.
Occasionally, I am asked where and when the rules of etiquette started;
have they gone out of fashion; and are they really important? First of
all, the term was coined in the court of Louis XVI and meant simply
KEEP OFF THE GRASS, reminding the public to tread respectfully at Versailles.
Common courtesy was most likely practiced in prehistoric times though there is
nothing to document the practice.
Etiquette was nicely presented in the 12th century as King Arthur created a
chivalric order in The Knights of the Round Table. It was Arthur's wish that each
knight of the realm have equal status and be treated with equal
respect. He was to be seated with his knights at a round table
which had neither head nor foot. In modern society however, the common
rules of courtesy evolved through necessity and were recorded by
ancient Romans and continued through George Washington and on to Emily
Post and a whole host of self proclaimed experts. These rules of etiquette
were originally developed as a safe way of communicating with dubious new
acquaintances, indicating peaceful intentions. They evolved into
musings of how polite society ought to behave and became almost like
doctrines by the early 20th Century. Make no mistake about it though;
these notions were fabricated by a variety of persons; and yet always with a
generous helping of common sense and an acute awareness of right and wrong.
Etiquette rules are flexible, however, and just as fashions, lifestyles, and
societies change and evolve, so too do the guidelines of accepted
behavior. Their importance does not diminish however. As the result of
some world events and technological eruptions, both the business world
and society at large have relaxed these rules, in my opinion, about as
far as they can go. Common courtesy is still effectively extended when
friendships are formed and are transformed into long term
relationships. People will never lose their innate desire to woo a
potential spouse; and this is true of both sexes. We like to be
treated kindly and soon come to discover that the easiest way for that
to occur is to be kind ourselves.
In business, especially in today's shrinking world, competitive
atmosphere and increasing markets, we have the luxury in many cases to
do business with people whom we like, feel we can trust, and who share
common sense which is a human trait. Many a business deal is closed
on a golf course or during a shared meal. These venues reveal our true selves
to one another and speak volumes about our strength of character and
I find that if I take the time to slow down and temporarily leave the
rat race of life, enjoying a quiet cup of tea at the local coffee
house or having a relaxed chat at the local hardware store,
these brief sojourns can be very therapeutic.
We have a chance to listen to what our
friends have on their minds, and it gives us a chance to be empathetic and
to share a bit of our time in a selfless way. This seemingly small act
speaks volumes for how we ourselves feel about the world in which we
live, be it local or global. The ability to express our opinions
freely is a cornerstone of a free and healthy society and one which we
too often overlook and take for granted.
Another indicator of whether what we are doing or saying is correct
and respectful is to look inside of ourselves. If we feel in our
hearts that what we intend to do is kind and thoughtful and not
solely self serving and hurtful, then we're probably on the right
track. This in essence is what etiquette is all about. After all,
being kind comes naturally to us as humans.
Being sensible about and mindful of courteous behavior is never going to
go out of style nor fashion. Flexibility in the rules governing what
is acceptable behavior will guarantee that. The underlying principles
of respect for all things including ourselves will preserve what we in
the Western world have come to know as normal. Common sense is within
each of us, let us apply it daily.