Common courtesy isn’t

Posted as a comment in someone else’s journal, but I want to save it here. Regarding common courtesy, and how small favors may not be returned or even noticed by others…

I believe two things.

1. Common courtesy isn’t. People are either stupid or selfish a lot of the time.
2. If I’m going to expect people to act a certain way, I have to act that way myself. If the power of expectation has any real power, it should work when the belief/expectation is strong – strong enough to be unconscious and automatic.

So. For myself, there are very few things that I believe strongly enough to “trust” absolutely everyone to do. For example, I choose to believe that people will be honest with me and will not try to hurt me on purpose. This is a naive belief — I have been proven wrong before and it will probably happen again, though rarely. I weasel out of being proved wrong by redefining those who fail to meet these two basic criteria as “non-persons”. For the most part I get some mileage out of this belief, because it allows me to assume a certain minimal level of trust, even with complete strangers. But, the belief breaks down if I compromise myself — so part of the bargain in keeping the faith is that I will never lie to anyone ever… which I haven’t done in my adult life.

By comparison, the belief that everyone will always be courteous to me is just not there in the same way. The expectation has no power, because common sense tells me something different about so-called common courtesy. Some days I don’t even rise to the level of being courteous myself, though it’s rare, it does happen, so such a belief would not even pass the sniff test looking at a statistical sample of one.

But, still I persist in having common courtesy for others. Maybe it’s just because my momma raised me right. I have pretty much decided I don’t care who notices, and I don’t care if it is returned… I take pride in myself for doing it, and that is enough; it has to be. How else am I going to change the world, other than going out of my way to *be* the type of person I would like the world to be filled with?

0 thoughts on “Common courtesy isn’t

  1. jakeaidan

    I believe the world as a whole is moving rapidly towards self interest and rudeness.
    However…I have to deal with other people X amount of hours out of a day…I have to live with myself 24 hours a day…so I try to maintain the levels of courtesy I think is correct.

  2. traveller_blues

    As promised.

    Common courtesy is the Prisoners Dilemma behavior — you benefit the most if you can find one person out of three who will treat you in kind, because in the long run, you will build a network of folks who know you to be kind, and are likely to treat you kindly.

    If you do it long enough, it becomes part of who you are, and as natural as breathing — and it is only through continued exposure to someone whose opinion you value that you might come to question why you bother, indeedy. Barring that, though, you cease to care whether or not people treat you nicely in return — but you do tend to extend favors and go the extra distance only for people who matter to you.

    What I’m trying to follow these days is the ‘Platinum Rule’ — ‘treat others as they want to be treated.’ Which is a hard road to figure out when someone only respects people who are forceful and willful with them. (Say it with me: ‘You human pt’ok are -WEAK!- Show me your heart, or be a coward!’) I listen sometimes to what people find offensive, and then seek to be just the opposite, within reason.


    1. nekodojo

      I don’t know if I completely follow the “treat others as they want to be treated” or if I want to. Sure I end up doing just that a lot of the time, but it’s not to please them, it’s mostly to fulfill an implied promise to myself. I guess I am not comfortable with the idea of modifying my behavior depending on who I am with or what *their* values are… I would rather believe that I am behaving according to *my* values. I enjoy doing something nice for someone, but I don’t want to put on a different facade for each person.

      Regarding the original comment… To my mind there is something disingenuous about someone writing e.g. “I don’t know why I bother doing nice things, people don’t notice and rarely if ever return the favor.” Well, duh, if you are doing it to be noticed, you might as well not. As for me, I’m doing it for me, not for others.

      I haven’t heard of the Prisoner’s Dilemma butI think I understand what you mean…

      1. traveller_blues

        In reverse order:
        The Prisoner’s Dilemma descripton can be found with a Google Search, or at It’s only for two people in this case, whereas the first case I’d seen it was for four people, but the theory there is done up in fairly good detail and relevant in a way to this discussion.

        I think what I was trying to get at with the Platinum Rule is that it supercedes the Golden Rule (treat others as you would want to be treated) in the fashion that you are not so much giving out your expected behaviors, but rather, listening to the other person’s expected (and desired) behaviors and trying to meet those needs. It’s the equivalent of calling ahead at a potluck and saying, ‘What do you need?’ versus bringing what you think is expected of you.

        And I agree, one should do good things not for the reciprocation or appreciation, but because one chooses to of their own free will. Doing it with an expectation of return is bound to be met with disappointment, sooner or later.


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