I’m writing this in my “den”…also known as the “Red Line”…part of Boston’s subway system. The “T,” as the system is informally called, is my laboratory for the study of human…and not-so-human…behavior.
I am continually fascinated/repulsed by the actions of my fellow inmates. Some of them seem to have learned basic social skills somewhere in their past. Others…not so much.
One thing I’ve noticed is that common courtesy toward others appears to be on the downswing. I don’t see this trend in Asia so much (though, I have to admit, Taiwan is where I spend the bulk of my overseas time), and, while I can’t speak to Europe, not having visited in several years, I suspect the same positive climate is true there as well.
Maybe it’s just Boston, just to throw my adopted home city under the bus. But I’ve observed similar situations in other cities as well, so probably not.
Bottom line on this…I’m seeing common courtesy as exhibited through acts of kindness and respect for others less and less often.
- Pregnant women ignored by young and old alike and compelled to stand for a half-hour or longer subway ride.
- Two or more seats taken up by a single rider’s backpack, briefcase, or other detritus.
- Riders standing immobile in the doorways as others try to either enter or depart.
Maybe I’m overly sensitive to this thanks in large part to an upbringing that drilled into my fuzzy brain the virtues of being attentive to others and respecting their rights/needs/wishes. I’m not implying that I’m perfect. As my wife helpfully points out on occasion, I can be pretty snippy when I’m not in the best of spirits. But I try.
So where am I going with this?
Simple. It bugs the dickens out of me as a long-time public relations professional to observe these actions.
Public relations is about forming and nourishing relationships, and common courtesy is part and parcel of that concept.
This is something that my undergrad Communication students at Curry College, where I head the Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, hear almost on a daily basis. It’s not a new concept, but it bears repeating…regularly.
As the song goes, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…,” and being mindful of others is one part of that “spoonful.”
When you’re courteous to others, most (not all…I’m not totally naïve) will take notice and be more receptive to your thoughts and ideas. From there, the opportunity for further conversation arises.
Just like your cat somehow knows when you walk into the room that it’s “bath time” and immediately digs in for the siege, most people sense whether you’re sincere in your words and actions or if you’re simply playing with them.
So keep the common courtesies in mind. There’s no guarantee that anything will come of the effort, but you will have cracked the door open just a smidge.
“See ye now, courtesy
Is the true alchemy,
Turning to gold all it touches and tries?”
George Meredith, “The Ordeal of Richard Feverel”