Your Career and You: “In PR, Common Courtesies Should Come Naturally”


Picture1I’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” [1859]

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About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 10 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in Communication, Curry College, public relations, Uncategorized, Undergraduate Communication and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Your Career and You: “In PR, Common Courtesies Should Come Naturally”

  1. Welcome to WordPress, Kirk! This is definitely the place to be for all of your blogging needs. Regarding your post, I’m constantly mindful of others around me like you are. Being a lifelong transit rider, I also share some of those same etiquettes you mentioned such as giving up seats to senior citizens and mothers with children onboard. It’s part of my character to be helpful to others and be mindful of the needs of those that require it the most. Those qualities, in my view, translate to better work ethics too — one that I believe will always be part of who I am.

    • kirkhazlett says:

      Thanks very much, Simon. It truly is an “experience” on mass transit and, as a public relations professional, I like to observe how others interact and respond.

      You’re right on all counts…and I believe there is a bright future ahead for you!

      Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing!!

  2. Reblogged this on Simon Oh and commented:
    Kirk Hazlett (APR, Fellow PRSA) shares why courteousness is important as a human being as well as in your professional life.

  3. Ford Kanzler says:

    Common courtesy is just common sense. You get what you give. Agree that courtesy seems to certainly have eroded over the past decade or two in US business. Believe the pace of life, as accelerated by impersonal, digital communications, has had something to do with it. So if one employs common courtesies, that person can stand out among the many who don’t.
    Once had a compliment from a reporter when I asked her in a follow-up message if “I may please have a reply to my story pitch.” Definitely caught her with that and we worked on a story successfully. Being slightly over-polite (but not 18th Century) in email can make a difference because its not often encountered and email is so typically brief, abrupt and can be perceived as discourteous.
    I also close messages to people I’m attempting to connect with using, “thank you for your interest.” Never had any kickback with that one. “Thank you” is nearly as underused now as “Like” is used to excess. 🙂

  4. kirkhazlett says:

    Amen to that, Ford. I don’t think it’s a totally lost cause…yet. But the challenge is definitely there for the future. I don’t expect gushingly effusive displays of appreciation, but eye contact and a smile can really make a difference. Or a politely-worded written response. Here’s hopin’!

    Thanks very much for reading and commenting!

  5. Stocktonplayer says:

    As you were taught like myself to respect people by showing them simple courtesies it seems that it is now lacking in modern society. I can assure you that living in the UK, historically noted for it’s courtesy, I also find it lacking. Gone are the days of a quick “good morning” when passing a neighbour although I still try to do it. On many occasions being looked at as if I came from another planet. I believe that in any conversation place a smile and you will get someone’s interest and maybe in the long run that precious business.

    • kirkhazlett says:

      Hi Stocktonplayer…

      It’s an ongoing process, and we DO occasionally have to remind ourselves to offer that smile or friendly greeting. Sounds like you’re doing a good job of it yourself!

      Thanks very much for reading and commenting!

  6. Holly Reynolds says:

    Hi Kirk – couldn’t agree with you more, and in fact, it was a topic of conversation in our office just today! One of our team commented about how shocked she felt when a family friend asked her about herself, her work etc with real and interested questions. I was reminded again this afternoon as a girl struggling with not just a bike but a swag of other sports gear was trying with difficulty to buzz herself into our apartment block. I asked her if I could help, and she just grunted at me and pushed her way in. Have we become so jaded that we can’t even recognise the offers of help when they happen? Common courtesy is so easy to demonstrate and makes everyone feel good. On the flipside, I am fortunate to receive kindness from strangers. A few weekends ago as I pulled up in a parking spot outside my cat’s vet, a fellow animal lover was on his way out. “Take my parking ticket, there’s still an hour left on it,” he said. He made my day. Great PR for the human race.

    • kirkhazlett says:

      What wonderful examples of both ends of the spectrum, Holly. There ARE some out there who still care…and then there are the others. We have to focus on the former.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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