Do you ever find yourself walking along a pavement facing two or more people walking towards you? How many times do these people make space for you to pass? Or do you find yourself having to stop for them to pass or having to step into the road?
What does it cost to pause, to make space, to give another person room to pass by comfortably and safely?
There is no loss of face in us acknowledging other people and taking simple actions to avoid hindering their progress. Often we don’t even need to stop, but just to move slightly, perhaps taking an extra step or two.
But the result achieves far more. Very often this simple act will result in achieving eye contact between pedestrians, a smile and even a ‘thank you’. Many people appreciate these simple yet powerful acts of courtesy.
Perhaps they don’t seem very big in the scheme of life, but all these small acts add up to make our lives happier and less stressful as we realise that there are millions of people in the world who support and help each other naturally.
Robert Zarywacz is courtesy consultant for the National Campaign for Courtesy.
After the launch of the new Campaign for Courtesy web site at the beginning of 2013, we have now introduced online membership forms and donation buttons.
As a registered charity, the campaign relies on the time and effort of volunteers and the subscriptions of members and donations from the public. Like many voluntary organisations, we depend on these to exist.
If you haven’t joined us yet, we welcome you join the campaign. You can join as an individual or group or as a business or organisation.
You are also welcome to make a donation, using any of the donate buttons on the web site.
We are grateful for all the support you can give.
I popped into a local baker’s this morning to buy a bun. As I was closing the door behind me, I saw a couple about to come in so held the door open for them.
The couple passed down to a display cabinet at the end of the shop while I stood by the main display. When the shop assistant came out, she spoke to the couple first. It didn’t make much difference to me as the couple were deliberating on what to buy, so the assistant served me.
As I was leaving the shop, there was a group of people standing right outside the door. I paused to see who was going where, but nobody moved and it appeared no one wanted to enter the shop. I carried on and heard a woman with a pushchair say: “Thank you for holding the door open.” I realised that she had been waiting for me to do this and I would have done, as that is why I paused to assess the situation, but did not pick this up. It was too late to open the door for her now and I apologised.
It reminded me that, however aware we try to be, we cannot always know what other people are doing or want us to do. This is always a challenge, especially in busy towns or cities where we pass by so many strangers. We cannot know what everyone wants to do. The best we can do is try to be helpful when stopping for a second lets someone pass or holding open a door for a second makes it easier for someone to go through it.
This morning I got it wrong. I hope it’s a rare instance.
• Robert Zarywacz is courtesy consultant for the National Campaign for Courtesy. As well as focusing on courtesy in daily life, he believes in the importance of courtesy in business and the workplace and manages pleaseandthanks.co.uk
View National Campaign for Courtesy councillor PR Smith’s recent TED talk on great sportsmanship.
The new National Campaign for Courtesy web site will be launched in January 2013.
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