Common courtesy should not be an oxymoron

thanksA recent article in the New York Times about the decline of manners in a Blackberry age prompted one executive coach to write to the Times editor to share an anecdote drawn from his own experience working with professionals. He wrote,

I was told by a client, who is a former board member of a large cosmetics company and now a venture capitalist, that she had decided to refuse to help fellow alumni from her prestigious university. When I asked why, she explained how over an 18-month period, she had gone out of her way to help six alumni network into new jobs. In response to all her efforts, not a single one took the time to thank her.

This is a glaring example of how politeness and manners seem to have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

This letter resonated with me deeply. A year ago I described my own experience with the deterioration of manners in a post that asked, “Whatever happened to thank you? Thoughts on gratitude“. What prompted me to write it was my disappointment in the failure of a former student to thank me for a favor I had performed on his behalf. His thoughtlessness produced one positive result at least: it made me think what “thank you” really means:

It is not simply expressing gratitude for the extra mile, the care, the thought. “Thank you” is also about renewing or building relationships. “Thank you” honors a past deed. “Thank you” affirms hope for the future.

Common courtesy, alas, these days seems increasingly uncommon. All too often, I note its absence. This is in fact why earlier this week I published “Please contact me…but kindly read this first if you need advice“. I remain delighted to be of help; but I also hope that those who seek my assistance may be prompted to take a moment to consider the time it takes to give it. And because I cannot ask more of readers than I would of myself, I will also take especial care to be sure to show my appreciation for the time that others give me. And so I thank you, gentle reader, for your time, now and always.

2 responses to “Common courtesy should not be an oxymoron

  1. I have been reading articles about the common courtesy for a while now, what is surprising to me is that most of what I read was mainly discussing the fact that it is going downwards, especially that I was under the impression that the lack of common courtesy is only a problem in the developing world which I belong to, and it did not exist in the developed one. I guess humans are humans. Thank you for your article

  2. And thank you for your comment!

    I suppose one universal is the capacity for human beings to be rude to one another. Rudeness and inconsideration assail us everywhere, an unfortunate fact of the human condition. Fortunately, though, courtesy has not died out entirely and remains fiercely alive – particularly among my readers. It gives me hope.

    Thank you again for visiting this site and for taking the time to comment. I do appreciate it!

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