A Karen's Perspective on National Common Courtesy Day
Updated: Apr 29
National Common Courtesy Day on March 21st serves as a reminder of the behavior that keeps society running smoothly. Marking this day brings awareness to how much we need more common courtesy in our lives.
Courtesy is simply courteous behavior - behavior marked by polished manners, gallantry, respect for, and consideration of others. The etymology is from Old French curteis (Modern French courtois) "having courtly bearing or manners."
Synonyms include civil, well-mannered, gracious, considerate, and decent. When I was in high school, everyone in the class was awarded a "superlative" and I was voted "Most Considerate." Which adds even more irony to being a Karen today.
Christine Porath, a professor of management at Georgetown University, has studied incivility — defined as rudeness, disrespect, or insensitive behavior — in workplaces for more than 20 years. In a recent survey, the data from more than 2,000 people in more than 25 industries found:
76% of respondents experience incivility at least once a month.
78% witness incivility at work at least once a month, and 70% witness it at least two to three times a month.
73% report that it’s not unusual for customers to behave badly.
Since my name is Karen, I do make a point to say please and thank you, and to exercise patience when I'm shopping or at a restaurant. In my observance, no business is 100% back to pre-pandemic staffing levels. Last Mother's Day, our sons joined us for dinner and service was predictably slow. We could see our server had his hands full, and I kept reassuring him we were not in a rush. A long dinner conversation with my sons was the perfect Mother's Day gift. I made sure the tip reflected that.
Even though it's good to recognize the need for common courtesy, we should also acknowledge that everyone has the right to be their authentic self - especially women, who often feel pressure to be happy and friendly. Instagram member, raisingteenstoday, posted this recently, just as I was planning this post. A good reminder that it's okay to have an occasional bad day.
Try adding some common courtesy to your interactions today. Saying please and thank you is just the beginning. Introduce yourself in gatherings, and make introductions as others join in. Lots of traffic? Let someone pull in front of you. If you experience rudeness, just shrug it off. That person may be distracted or dealing with a problem. Courtesy can be contagious.
Frontline Work When Everyone Is Angry
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