Discussion on Modern Courtesy

by Thomas A. Stobie, SFO

It surprises me but is true, that many people are brought up never being taught how to be courteous.

Some people choose to be rude as it establishes them as the dominant person (i.e., abuser) in an (abusive) relationship. This is sad, but often where you see rudeness who find abuse.

Index to Tables

Table of Behaviors and their Descriptions
Behavior DescriptionSmily
Courteous Behavior Courteous behavior is acting considering others and their feelings. Courtesy is a form of loving others. A courteous person occasionally is rude, usually by accident, and apologizes. People who behave courteously are known as ladies and gentlemen.
Rude Behavior Rude behavior usually results from selfishness and not caring about others and their feelings, but sometimes by lack of awareness of what is around them.
Excessively Rude Behavior Excessively rude behavior usually occurs as part of an abusive relationship where the abuser takes pleasure in abusing the abusee, but can occur by selfishness or thoughtlessness. Personally I would recommend not associating with people who are excessively rude often or rude to abusiveness. image

Table of Activities and Courteous & Rude Behaviors
Activity Courteous Behavior Rude Behavior Extremely Rude Behavior
Behavior around Others
Cell Phone Use (ringing during gatherings) If in a solemn or important gathering, turn the ringer off. If it is truly necessary that you receive calls, set the phone to vibrate and leave the room to take calls. Having your cell phone ring during a solemn or important gathering. Having your cell phone ring multiple times during a solemn or important gathering.
Cursing Cursing is never courteous. Cursing softly to yourself. Cursing loudly around others.
Personal Prayer Think the prayers to God. (God knows what is in your mind and can hear your thoughts.) Praying by speaking softly to yourself. Praying by speaking loudly.
Phone Calls (volume) Speak softly into the handset's microphone respecting others around you. Speaking loudly on the phone or not monitoring your speaking volume when others are around you. Bringing an active phone call into a room with others and then speaking loudly.
Profanity The use of profanity, verbally or in gestures, is never courteous. Using profanity softly to yourself. Using profanity loudly around others.
Responding to Violence Remain calm and call the appropriate authorities. If you are the appropriate authority, take action to insure that the violence is not repeated. Responding with violence, except in protective acts. Responding with violence and hurting others, except in protective acts or responding with excessive violence.
Talking to Oneself Think to yourself not vocalizing the words. Speaking softly to yourself. Speaking loudly to yourself.
Using Airborne substances (burning items, spraying items, etc.) Receive consent from all nearby before using and abiding by those who say no. Not asking and modest use of the product. Not asking and excessive use of the product or asking, not receiving consent, and using it anyway.
Violence The use of violence is never courteous, but it is acceptable to use minimum force to protect yourself. Being violent, except in protective acts. Being violent and hurting others, except in protective acts.
Behavior at Work
Agendas Keep all your Agendas public. Hide none of them. (Any proper agenda should not require concealment to achieve given a proper work environment.) Hiding Agendas to protect other's feelings. Hiding Agendas for personal reasons.
Business Email Distribution Send emails to those with a need to know, omitting no one who needs the information and sending to no one not needing to know. Sending emails with extraneous distributions to avoid omitting someone who should know or omitting people who should know by accident. Sending emails with extraneous distributions or omitting people who should know to cause trouble.
Conference Calls Courteously annouce your presence when joining a conference call. Lurking on conference calls without revealing your presence. Lurking on conference calls without revealing your presence and using information learned for personal gain.
Dealing With Co-workers Be Courteous in all interactions regardless of circumstances. Report discourteous behavior received to appropriate supervisory personnel. Letting a co-worker's discourteous behavior influence you into behaving discourteous. Treating a co-worker rudely without prevocation.
Dealing With Customers Be Courteous in all interactions regardless of circumstances. Letting customer's discourteous behavior influence you into behaving discourteous. Treating a customer rudely without prevocation.
Dealing With Personal Issues Keep personal issues and business out of sight from customers and from intruding into your job. Letting personal issues or business be seen by customers. Letting personal issues cause rudeness towards customers.
Ethics Maintain solid ethical standards, doing what is right always. Report unethic behavior to the appropriate people. Doing what you are told when it is unethical, unless you reported it to the appropriate people. Doing whatever you can get away with whether it is ethical or not.
Fixed Start Time Arrive promptly (or slightly early) ready to work. Arriving late by accident or on time but not ready to work. Arriving late intentionally or repeatedly or often not ready to work.
Quoting Prices Only quote accurate prices and set prices where empowered to set them. Say when it is outside your authority to quote prices. Quoting prices but billing different rates, but correcting when pointed out. Quoting prices but billing different rates and not correcting them when pointed out.
Speaker Phones Use speaker phones in enclosed rooms at reasonable volumes. Using speaker phones in open areas with multiple people listening at your location and at reasonable volumes. Using speaker phones in open areas with one person listening at your location, particular at loud volumes.
Behavior with Other's Property
Furniture Treat others' furniture with respect, inflicting no damage in any way. Not giving respect to others' furniture. Damaging, marring, and/or defacing other's furniture.
Property Use Ask and receive permission before using and leave it in the condition found. Using it and leaving it in the condition found without asking for permission. Using it and leaving it in worse condition then when found, particularly if used without permission.
Returning Property When finished using an item, return it to where you found it. Leaving property not where it was found. Leaving property in a location where it may fall or be a hazard.
Tampering with Equipment Ask permission and abide by any limitations imposed. Tampering without permission but leaving in the same state as when found. Tampering without permission but leaving in the worse state then when found or not abiding by limitations.
Driving Motor Vehicles
Distance between Vehicles Maintain a safe distance (two seconds of travel) between vehicles. Not paying attention, getting to close, but returning to a safe distance when realizing it. Deliberately driving two close.
Eye Contact Watch where you are driving, focusing primarily on what is around you. Glancing at passengers when talking to them. Looking at passengers for more than a consecutive second or not paying attention to your surroundings.
Hand Positioning Keep both hands on the steering wheel, ready to react to the unexpected. Short (10-30 seconds) periods of one-handed driving. Long periods (30 seconds +) of one-handed driving.
Honking Honk to prevent an accident. Honking at a driver's bad driving. Honking for the fun of it.
Interacting with other Vehicles Consider what the other drivers are trying to accomplish and work with them in the mutual accomplishment of driving goals. Not considering other drivers. Driving selfishly, cutting others off to achieve personal driving goals.
Radio Volume Set volume so that other drivers can not hear it. Playing the radio so loudly those outside the vehicle can hear it. Playing the radio loudly to bother others.
Stop Lines When stopping, stop with your entire vehicle behind the stop line. Stopping beyond the stop line with any part of your vehicle. Stopping with any part of your vehicle over a marked crosswalk.
Traffic Laws Obey all traffic laws without bending them unless it is not safe to do so. Bending traffic laws (for example, doing 30 MPH in a 25 MPH zone.) Deliberately breaking traffic laws.
Guesting in Someone Else's Home
Arriving at Meals Respond quickly when informed of the meal being served and move to the dining table. Apologize if delayed. Responding slowly making others wait and not apologizing. Ignoring the notification or consistently late for meals.
Dealing with Spillable Items Spillable Items should be placed to reduce the likelihood of spilling or being accidental knocked over. Putting things down without thinking about how safe that location is. Putting things where you know they are likely to be knocked over.
Doing Things the Hosts find Immoral When in someone else's home, abide by their morality if more stringent than your own. Performing actions that the hosts consider slightly immoral in their home. Performing actions that the hosts consider very immoral in their home.
Feeling Too Hot or Cold Inform your host and abide by whatever the host says. Opening or closing windows, leaving doors open, or adjusting thermostats. Opening or closing windows, leaving doors open, or adjusting thermostats knowing that the host has adjusted for health reasons.
Incurring Charges to Your Host A guest does not incur charges to the host, except with explicit permission for each charge. n/a Incurring any charge to the host without explicit permission. This is also known as theft.
Inviting Other Guests A guest does not invite other guests. If you desire to take someone with you who in uninvited, ask the host for permission and courteously abide by the host's decision. Bringing a courteous guest that the host would not object to without asking. Assuming that you have the right to invite other guests whenever you are invited or making your appearence conditional on another getting an invite.
Items with Lids Keep the lid on the item except when actively using. Leaving the item with the lid nearby and not on the item. Leaving the item and lid in different places.
Made a Mess Immediately inform your host about it incudling acknowleding that you did it and if possible assist in cleaning it up. Delayed informing your host about it and if applicable, not helping clean it up. Ignoring it and letting someone else discover it and clean it up.
Smoking Seek permission from the host and obey any restrictions. Recieve permission from everyone in the area to smoke near them and abide by any restrictions. Recieving permission but smoking near others without their consent. Smoking without asking permission or against the permission or restrictions of the host.
Treating Others' Property Treat property with respect leaving it in as good of condition as when found. Mishandling others' property and damaging it, but offering to the host to replace it promptly. Damaging others' property and not making restitution.
Using Sprays, Aerosols, and Perfumes If permitted by the host, use modestly where desired. Using modestly without asking permission of the host. If permitted by the host, excessive use of these. If forbidden by the host. any use of these.
Interacting over the Internet
Distributing Email Addresses for Sales Purposes Distributing Email Addresses for Sales Purposes is never courteous unless explicit permission is received by the email's owner. Giving Email Addresses for People who you think would be interested without their permission. Giving Email Addresses indiscriminately for Sales Purposes.
Emailing (descriptiveness) Be Descriptive and to the point in your emails, remembering that the recepient only has your email to go on. Emailing with either a lack of enough description or way too much. Emailing a large volume of unsolicited supporting material with your emails.
Interacting with People via the Internet Be Courteous always. (See interacting with people for specifics.) Being Rude. (See interacting with people for specifics.) Using email, chat boards, message boards, etc. to harass or abuse.
Mass Emailing Only mass email those who have personally agreed to want the mass email. Mass emailing everyone in your addressbook, except for urgent messages (such as virus infections). Mass emailing anyone who has never wrote to you nor signed up personally for the email. (Unsolicited junk email is an example.)
Posting on a Site Read the rules prior to posting and obey them. be Courteous in all posts. Posting without reading the rules or being rude. Deliberately violating the rules when posting or being excessively rude.
Posting on a Thread on a Particular Topic Reading and then addressing the topic being addressed while being courteous of all readers and posters. Not fully reading the previous posts on the thread, asking questions that have been asked and answered previously in the thread, or leading the thread off-topic. Deliberately leading the thread off-topic, disrupting the discussion, or using debating tactics in a non-debate forum.
Sexual Solicitations Unless you are married to the person with whom you are communicating, sexual solicitations of any form are never courteous. Soliciting people personally known to you. Soliciting anyone not personally known to you.
Starting New Threads on Discussion Forums Starting an in-context thread in a Forum with a definitive title and a good initial courteous post. Starting a thread with an indescript title or a non-courteous intial post. Starting a thread to deliberately cause confusion or hurt to some of the readers.
Zipping Attachments to Emails Compress large attachments (500k+) to emails using a zip program. Send multiple large zipped attachments in separate emails (to facilitate receiving). Sending a large attachment without zipping or sending multiple large zipped attachments in a single email. Sending a very large attachment without zipping.
Interacting with People
Addressing Others by Name Use the name they give or ask you to call them. Assigning a nickname, even a standard one for the given name, without knowing how the person feels about it. Using a name that you know they find offensive which may include standard nicknames for their given names.
Agreements Do what you say you will when you say you will. Intending to honor the agreement but forgettting the agreement and fulfilling it late. Making agreements you have no intention over keeping.
Applying Guilt Applying guilt for its own sake is never courteous. (See criticizing below.) Making someone feel quilty about something they had done without being abusive about it. Making someone feel guilty about someone which you did or applying guilt to abuse.
Communicating (terms of address) Use complimentary terms towards the one spoken to with the intent of building up their self-esteem. Using inappropriate terms towards the one spoken to. Using derogatory (in the mind of the person spoke to) terms towards the one spoken to, particularly when done to abuse.
Communicating (tone of voice) Use appropriate tones of voice, erring on the side of gentleness. Being unaware of your tones of voice. Deliberately using an inappropriate tone of voice.
Communicating (volume of speech) Speak softly but clearly and understandably. Be respectful for those not in the conversation. Speaking without considering those around you. Talking loudly, particularly around those will sensitive to noise.
Criticizing Criticize objectively with the intent of helping the criticized to improve. Excessive criticism or criticism with any intent except helping the criticized. Criticizing to abuse.
Dealing with Rudeness Be Courteous. Responding with rudeness. Responding with extreme rudeness, violence, or abusive behavior.
Disagreeing Disagree with someone else gently and courteously. Disagreeing with someone and responding with rudeness. Disagreeing with someone and responding with extreme rudeness, violence, or abusive behavior.
Feeling Emotional Do not let your emotions dictate your behavior and do maintain respect for others in what you do. Letting your emotions control your behavior causing unrespectful behavior towards others. Exerting no control over your emotions and becoming abusive and/or violent.
Gossip Gossip should be avoid and it generally not courteous. Adding excessive gossip to help you make a on-topic point. Deliberately gossip to hurt or destroy someone's reputation.
Harassing Harassing is never courteous. Harassing an individual by accident. Harassing an individual deliberately is always exteremely rude.
Interacting Individual Focused on a Task (such as driving). Avoid distracting the individual from the task including asking them to do things that would detract from the task. Distracting the individual. Deliberately distracting the individual.
Listening Listen to the other person trying to understand their viewpoint. Prejudging what the other person is saying. Prejudging what the other person is saying and cutting them off.
Lying Lying is never courteous. Lying to avoid hurting someone else's feelings. Lying for personal reasons or to hurt others.
Making a Request Say 'please' and make a straight-forward request. Not saying 'please' or dragging out the request. Arrogantly ordering the request be done or making hostile threats ("Do it or Else ...").
Making Promises Only make promises you fully intend to keep that will not affect other promises and their fulfillment. Making a promise with the intent to keep it, but failing to keep it. Making a promise with no intention of keeping them.
Misleading Statements Making misleading statements is never courteous. Making misleading statements to avoid hurting someone else's feelings. Making misleading statements for personal reasons or to hurt others.
Phone Calls (timing) Call only during time periods where the recepient's household is active except for emergencies. General rule: only call between 9 AM and 9 PM. Calling during inactive time periods. General rule: never call after 9 PM or before 9 AM. Calling to harass or disturb or not considering others in the household.
Receiving Service from Others Acknowledge the service by saying 'Thank you'. Not saying 'Thank you'. Treating the person as if they are a slave.
Recorded Message Calling Calling with an unsolicited recorded message is never courteous. Calling with an unsolicited recorded message for charity. Calling with an unsolicited recorded message for sales.
Repaying Borrowed Money from Individuals Make periodic payments, sacraficing some of your entertainment to pay more on the debt. Making periodic payments, without sacrafice to increase the amount of payment. Letting the debt build, while fully enjoying any entertainment you can find.
Respecting Others Show respect to others at all times. This is respecting them as people, not endorsing whatever they do. Being disrespectful towards those who are disrespectful to you. Being disrespectful towards others without prevocation.
Sales Telephone Calls to Residence Call only those people who specifically request you to call during the times acceptable to them. Unsolicited residential sales phoning is never courteous. Unsolicited phoning between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Unsolicited phoning before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m, or calling those who have requested never to receive unsolicited sales phone calls.
Uninvited Soliciting at Residences Uninvited residental soliciting is never courteous. Uninvited residental soliciting for charity. Uninvited residental soliciting that involves personal gain.
Unintended Rudeness Apologize immediately for what was done. Acting ignorant of what happened while knowing what happened. Actively denying it happened or blaming someone else for it while knowing what happened.
Natural Body Functions (when necessary or uncontrollable)
Belching Belch with you mouth shut avoiding drawing attention to yourself. Belching with an open mouth near others. Belching with an open mouth at someone or drawing attention to yourself.
Chewing Chew with your mouth shut. Chewing with an open mouth. Chewing with an open mouth at someone or drawing attention to yourself.
Coughing Cough covering your mouth, not drawing attention to yourself, and avoiding disrupting others. Coughing not covering your mouth or drawing attention to yourself. Coughing deliberately to disrupt someone else.
Drinking Liquids Drink as noiselessly as possible. Making noises with your drinking not intending to bother those around you. Making noises with your drinking to bother those around you or to draw attention.
Farting If possible, go to the restroom to fart; otherwise, fart away from people without drawing attention to yourself. Farting around others. Farting and drawing attention to yourself or farting deliberately at someone.
Sneezing Using a tissue/handkerchief (preferred) or your hand/arm to cover the sneeze, carefully cleaning up after the sneeze. Sneezing uncovered but away from people and valuable objects. Sneezing at someone or at a valuable object.
Talking with food in your mouth Finish the food first if feasible; otherwise, move food to side of mouth, and talk without chewing. Talking without moving food out of the way. Talking with food sprewing out.
Walking Walk softly transfering your weight gently and avoiding drawing attention to yourself. Walking without considering others. Stomping you feet as you walk.
Washing Wash frequently, being considerate of those around you. Bathe or shower at least once a day. Not managing well your cleaniness, particular when you know you will be around others. Taking pleasure in using your odor and/or grungy appearance to bother others.
Yawning Yawn covering your mouth, not drawing attention to yourself, or disrupting others. Yawning not covering your mouth or drawing attention to yourself. Yawning deliberately to disrupt someone else.
Residing in Someone Else's Home
Attire Wear clothing or at least robes when outside of private areas. Going around unclothed or partially clothed outside of private areas. Wearing or not wearing as you please and leaving your clothing all over the house.
Having Guests Ask the home owner for permission to have each guest and abide by any restrictions by the home owner. Not asking the home owner, but taking full responsibility for their actions. Not asking the home owner and not taking responsibility for your guests' actions or asking but not abiding by the restrictions.
House Rules Understand and abide by all house rules set by the home owner. If you cannot abide by the house rules find someplace else to reside. Not bothering to understand the house rules, but correcting actions when pointed out. Not following the house rules.
Locating Belongings Keep your property with the rest of your belongings where you sleep. Leaving them laying all around the house. Leaving them laying all around the house and complaining when someone tries to clean up the area.
Made a Mess Clean it up and leave it as you found it before doing anything else. Cleaning it up later or after having to be reminded to do so. Letting someone else clean it up.
Phone Use (owner's phone) Keep phone use to important calls only, never incurring charges without explicit permission on a call by call basis. Making and receiving many casual calls. (The courteous answer is to get your own phone and use it for all casual calling.) Incurring charges on the phone or excessive use.
Private Areas Knock and wait to be invited in prior to opening the door and entering. Knocking on the door and entering without waiting to be invited. Intruding into a private area without being invited.
Private Space Never move or remove anything from someone else's private space without explicit permission. Looking through someone else's private space Moving or Removing items from someone else's private space.
Illustrative Smily Faces image inappropriate

Written by Thomas A. Stobie, SFO 2002-2008. Permission granted to copy for personal or educational use.

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Last Modified 5 Nov 2008.