Estimated Lesson Time: 4 minutes
Both Harry and David were in line for a supervisor position at a large industrial business. They were both equally qualified, were hired on the same day, and had just about equal abilities in every way. Cindy, the VP of human resources, had a tough decision to make. After the final interview, Cindy had made up her mind and had given David the supervisor position. Why? Simply because David began the interview by thanking Cindy for the opportunity to interview. When it comes to success, little courtesies can go a long way.
Courtesies are polite behaviors, gestures, or remarks. While entire books have been written on manners, this lesson focuses on a few select behaviors that apply to both professional and personal situations, which are most likely to influence your level of success.
Being courteous is about showing respect for others. By showing others respect, you in turn will be shown respect. People like to be respected; therefore by showing respect, people will like you more for it. Often when in a position of power, one forgets or feels he does not have to show courtesy to those “beneath” him. He feels that by showing courtesy it would somehow lessen his power. Actually, the opposite is true. Showing courtesy is a way to get others to like you, which will help you to have more influence over them. When it comes to courtesy, we are all on the same level—no one is beneath or above anyone else.
Some of the most powerful courtesies are verbal. The two most powerful and well-known courtesies are “please” and “thank you.” Some others are
can you please
would you be so kind
I would appreciate it if
I am sorry
Other courtesies include gestures. Here are some ways to practice your courteousness.
- The handshake. Be the first to extend your hand. For a more meaningful handshake, try a) the two-handed handshake, b) the left hand on the other person’s right shoulder handshake, c) the handshake with a one-armed hug, or d) the very powerful, handshake with a respectful nod.
- The hello. Be the first to say “hello.” A “hello” is generally considered to be more courteous than a “hi” or a “hiyadoin.”
- The meal. When dining in a business or even personal setting, do not sit down until the other members of the party have sat down; the same thing goes for starting to eat. Of course, use common sense: if a guest is late or using the restroom, have a seat.
- Open doors for people. This is not some obscure proverb—I mean literally, open doors for people. This is especially appreciated when the other person has their hands full. There is nothing wrong with going through the door first in order to keep the door open for the other person without being in his or her way.
- Don’t point. Pointing with a single “pointer” finger is generally considered rude (at least in most Western cultures). Instead, use the open hand palm up to do your “pointing.”
If you are a woman who refuses to open a door for a man because of some 50s sexual politics, or a man who refuses to extend your hand to a woman for whatever reason, get over your sexist issues. Everyone, regardless of gender, deserves to be shown respect through common courtesy.
Being courteous is being affable, attentive, ceremonious, civil, civilized, complaisant, considerate, courtly, cultivated, debonair, elegant, gallant, genteel, gentle, gentlemanly, gracious, ladylike, polished, polite, refined, respectful, soft-spoken, suave, thoughtful, urbane, well-behaved, well-bred, well-mannered, and well-spoken (yes, I did use a thesaurus for that). But most of all, being courteous is part of being an overall good person.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)