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Common Courtesy: Managing Triggers When Society Is Lacking

Posted on Sep 07 2017 under Blog Posts

Interlinking Hands

I was looking forward to this long three-day weekend. Relaxing for me during these extended weekends means completing house projects, cleaning, organizing, and exercising.  The periods of time when I was outside of my home interacting with the public I observed a lack of common courtesy that I found concerning. It is especially worrying because of the frustration that appeared to fester because of that missing element of respect between individuals could very easily have escalated into conflict. I felt annoyed on several occasions throughout the weekend that I was able to recognize before I allowed myself to be triggered.

Merriam-Webster defines common courtesy as, “politeness that people can usually be expected to show.” There were several examples of a lack of common courtesy I observed and experienced over the weekend.

I was in the car driving with a friend when another vehicle pulled out in front of us and cut us off. My friend beeped the horn to signal that the other car almost caused an accident, yet the other driver did not wave apologetically.  My frustrated friend shook her head and said, ” Some people are so rude. I have half a mind to ride their bumper now.”

Bernard and I were at Home Depot picking up supplies for our home project. I observed a person trying to maneuver their cart down an aisle and ran into another customer’s cart sitting off to the side and knocked several items of theirs onto the floor. The person whose items were knocked onto the floor was not standing right there but a little further down the aisle. Rather than picking up the items, the person who hit the cart kept going. When the person returned to their cart, they appeared visibly angry shaking their head and mumbling to themselves.

I am currently training for the Baltimore Half Marathon, a huge running event at the end of October. Over the weekend, when running, I found myself in a game of chicken with a couple walking towards me on a narrow sidewalk. We could have all fit easily if one of them moved to walk behind the other while I passed. Instead, they refused to move, and I ended up running into the busy street next to the sidewalk. The situation angered me as I had found myself in similar incidents often, however, not nearly as dangerous as that one.

Finally, I observed two people getting to the grocery store checkout line at the same time. One person had about ten items while the other had only a few. The two individuals stood there for a moment looking at each other before the person with the fewer items relented. The person with more groceries didn’t acknowledge the other person.  They just walked ahead putting their groceries on the belt. I watched the person with fewer items roll their eyes and visibly bite their bottom lip as if they were forcing themselves to remain quiet.

The definition of common courtesy mentions there is an expectation of politeness, so perhaps, the issue lies with our assumption that courtesy is given but isn’t necessarily guaranteed. The examples provided above may not have caused conflict in those moments, but the potential was there.

What can we do when we feel triggered by other’s lack of common courtesy?

  1. Take a deep breath. Before reacting or engaging, take a deep in through the nose, out through the mouth breath. Just doing that can soothe the mind and the temper.
  2. Be understanding. People are often distracted by whatever is going on in their minds; they may not have noticed that they cut you off, or bumped your cart. Lashing out at someone for a perceived slight that the other person may not be aware of will force them to get defensive and potentially lash out at you.
  3. Manage your expectations. Remember that not everyone is brought up the same way. Recognize that just because you would behave one way doesn’t mean everyone else will behave as you do.
  4. Keep smiling. What I mean is, continue to show other’s courtesy and be respectful. We can show other’s the way by doing it ourselves.

Have a good week,

Abigail R.C. McManus, Guest Blogger


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