Courtesy, thoughtfulness and kindness go a very long way in our lives to reach our goals, from getting what we need from other people to our inner growth. These characteristics are valued in all the religious traditions I’ve read about; adored leaders use them, and hopefully our parents taught them.
I believe most people are kind and considerate when they are content. It is when our patience is strained, our stress level is high, and ‘our last nerve is plucked’ to quote a friend of mine, that our politeness can easily vacate our manner.
What I try to remember at these times is something I learned raising my sons and dealing with customers for the last 18 years. Make a conscious decision how you will react ahead of time. Letting the emotions dictate our behavior makes us lose validity. When we are angry because a product doesn’t work and we’re returning it, assume the merchant will correct the problem. If I stop to think, I realize the clerk probably wants to help. That gives me the calmness to explain my situation slowly, with the attitude that they want to help me when they understand the problem.
The same works with children. We can tell a child that she can’t go to the concert in a way that she is still respected, with the attitude that she will understand, even though she may not like it and be angry. For example, “I understand you really want to go to the concert, it sounds like fun. Our rules in this family are that you must reach 18 before you will be allowed to go without an adult. We made this rule to keep you safe because we love you so much.”
When someone is angry with us, it is even harder to maintain politeness yet it can be done. Make a decision not to react emotionally. Take the other persons side for a moment, listen without voicing your defense. If we listen long enough the other person may, just by being heard, feel so much better that he is willing to compromise. The release of his anger may help him see our side. We can then explain our side without attacking the other person. We can start the sentences with ‘I feel,’ or ‘I want’ instead of ‘You…..’
I am going to make it a priority in my work and private life to give each person the dignity all deserve. And treat my family with the respect that an honored guest would elicit of me. Of course, it isn’t easy. With stresses so high these days, it’s harder than ever, but at the same time more important than ever.
(I actually wrote this for our local newspaper back in the 1990s for Civility Week. It’s needed even more now. Let’s start a kind-demic!)
Photo by Ditto Bowo on Unsplash