Monday, April 12, 2010

Common Sense and Common Courtesy

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

core values.

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.