In our hyper-competitive, greed-driven world, it is easy to lose focus of our humanity. We fail to recognize that our lives are enmeshed with the lives of people both in our immediate vicinity and with those around the world, and that so often it is the effort of these people who contribute to the ease and comfort in our lives.
It is easy to lose track of the value of human connection because so much praise and attention is directed towards those who are aggressive and who win at all cost.
Counterintuitively though, real success comes from being cooperative, respectful, and tactful in our interactions and relationships, and in being civil to the strangers in our world. The combination of these and other similar qualities like consideration and discretion are called common decency, or graciousness.
We call its opposite - disgraceful behavior - when a person behaves in a selfish, uncaring manner by not honoring a commitment, taking advantage of others, shaming others, or being cruel.
To reconnect and repair relationships with those from whom we feel alienated and disconnected, we have to make the effort to consciously and deliberately recall and reawaken common courtesy or decency in our interactions and engagements.
Here are some suggestions:
Being Tactful – Speaking directly and honestly is important. However, we have to temper what and when we speak by checking if it is necessary, truthful, and helpful, and if it can be said kindly. Tact is being sensitive when communicating about difficult issues, and often it can manifest as not expressing our thoughts or feelings at all. For example avoid mentioning an invitation in front of others who may not have been invited to an event, or don’t brag and boast about your achievements, and don’t mock others for their mistakes.
Being Courteous – it is normal and healthy to have emotional, ideological, and political differences which make for an invigorating, diverse society. It is equally important to be mindful when expressing a difference of opinion that we do not attack the person (ad hominem attack). Knowing your motivation for speaking will help you become clear on whether you are simply wishing to express an opposing viewpoint, or if you are trying to crush or shame the other person into submission. At the end of the interaction both parties should leave with their dignity and humanity intact even if the parties still cleave to their opinions.
When we feel wronged or that our rights have been infringed upon it is especially important in such fraught situations to be on the alert to not lose our temper or be rude and accusatory. If it is a situation where someone rudely cuts in front of us we can quietly let such a breach simply slide. We don’t have to always argue to prove we are right even when logic is on our side.
Being Calm and Aware – Become aware of and actively train yourself to notice the situations that trigger frustration, jealousy, greed, and apathy in you. Also identify the people who know how to work you up. In such tinder-box situations your habit of screaming and shouting or acting greedily etc. can arise with lightning speed, and your goal of being kind and considerate in your interactions will quickly evaporate. So empower yourself in advance by thinking of strategies or skills you can employ to distract and deflect yourself. Take a walk, look at the sky, remind yourself to be quiet and listen for example.
Being the Bigger Person – A sure fire way of maintaining your focus on being tactful and respectful in your dealings with others is to get into the habit of treating everyone – from a waiter, mailman, janitor to an executive - by acknowledging their human dignity and treating them with courtesy. The advantages are that you will earn their respect, and your own mind will remain more even-keeled and calmer.
If you do lose your temper or are rude, then apologize or express regret for your unskillful behavior as soon as possible. It shows them you are willing to be vulnerable and human with them and it helps them feel better.
Ultimately the best strategy is to remember that everyone wants to be treated in the same way you would like to be treated. If your motivation is to ensure meaningful and heartfelt conversations and relationships with the people in your life then the skillful strategies listed above will help you achieve that goal.
May your life and those you interact with be filled grace and consideration.