Rediscover the Lost Art of Courtesy for Better Results in Life

Even though our parents probably impressed upon us the importance of saying “please” and “thank you,” we sometimes forget to show courtesy to strangers as we grow up. Rediscovering the fine art of finesse will benefit you in many ways, from greater success in negotiating to increased respect from others, and a happier, more fulfilled mindset.

Consider this example: One fine day, Pauline visited a restaurant for lunch. But instead of experiencing a relaxing and delectable meal, here’s what transpired:

Pauline, in an exasperated tone: “This menu is so confusing! Up here at the top it says, “Pick any two choices for $12.00” but down here at the bottom, it says, “Pick any two choices for $9.00.” What’s going on? I want two of these (gestures to the top of the page) but I only want to pay $9.00 for them.”

The Waiter, trying to be patient, explains: “Up at the top is a listing of our more expensive lunch entrees so two of those would be $12.00. At the bottom of the page, you’ll notice a different list, which includes our less expensive entrees, so they’re only $9.00 for two.”

Pauline, sounding demanding now: “But I don’t want to pay $12.00. I want to pay $9.00!”

Waiter, again, with more patience: “Well, that’s fine. Simply pick two items from the “Pick Two for $9.00″ list at the bottom of the page.”

As Pauline’s conversation with the waiter progressed, she became more and more frustrated. When she finally got past ordering and received her food, she was in no mood to enjoy it. What happened that turned her lunch experience into an ordeal? Was it the waiter? Or was it Pauline’s lack of courtesy? You be the judge.

Maybe it’s a good idea to re-visit some important points about common courtesy.

Consider how these aspects of courtesy can bring you pleasing results, rather than generating frustration and stress:

1. Think before you speak. If Pauline didn’t understand the menu, perhaps she could slow down a bit, take a breath, and then re-read the menu for a better understanding. You can often prevent unpleasant interactions with others by simply taking a moment to think over the situation, and by taking a little more time before speaking.

2. Ask questions with a respectful tone. Rather than showing an attitude in your question, ask it as if you want to gain knowledge. Avoid putting down the other person or making some kind of unwinnable point. Endeavor to be respectful to everyone to set a more cooperative tone.

3. Be friendly. You show your confidence when you’re friendly to others, rather than challenging others because you want to dominate the conversation.

4. Remind yourself of the old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.”

* When you want someone to help you, it’s wise to approach them with an air of respect rather than disdain. Strengthen your efforts to be courteous and they’ll make more of an effort to assist you.

5. Recognize the obvious. In Pauline’s case, it would have been helpful for her to recognize that the waiter probably isn’t the person who composed the menu. Therefore, directing irritability toward the waiter was simply misplacing negative feelings toward someone who doesn’t deserve it.

* You’ll be less likely to get the best resolution if you’re displaying unkindness toward the man in the middle. Keep your focus on kindness – especially toward waitstaff or other serving staff, because they likely deal with “attitudes” all day long. Be the person who treats them with kindness and most often, you’ll find that kindness returned.

6. Be clear about what you want, and then listen. Pauline could have stated, “I’m having trouble interpreting this menu page. I want a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a small Caesar salad. Can you please tell me how much will I be charged?”

* Being courteous and perfectly clear in the first place prevents misunderstandings.

7. Say ‘thank you.’ If you follow up every exchange with a genuine “thank you,” it will bring the situation to an acknowledged, satisfying conclusion. You both know the event has ended. You’re successful in your efforts to be courteous.

Although it’s okay to be assertive when a situation demands, it’s always wise to demonstrate courtesy. Your ability to get what you want and successfully conclude a situation vastly increases when you practice this lost art of finesse.