Wearing a stylish blazer, a pair of black pumps, and an innocent smile that said “Hire me, I’m nice,” I walked into a local coffee shop to inquire about a barista position. I worked as a barista at a university coffeehouse for three of my four college years, so snagging this position should have been a cakewalk. Upon entering, I assessed the business of the shop to determine whether or not it was a good time to request a moment with the manager. I saw a short, manageable line and two baristas mixing drinks behind the counter, so I decided it was good a time as any to go for it.
After being directed to the hiring manager, I approached her confidently and extended a hand to introduce myself. As if offended by this gesture, she looked down at my hand, up at my face and coldly said, “You know, I really can’t deal with you right now. If I shake your hand, then I’ll have to wash my hands and I don’t even have time to wash my hands. Come back on Monday if you want to do this properly.”
Needless to say, I didn’t go back on Monday.
This exchange left me wondering when common courtesy became the runner up to productivity. When did a handshake’s simple gesture become the overwhelming chore standing between a barista and my morning coffee?
Unfortunately, we have all experienced similar moments in which we ‘ve been dumbfounded by sheer rudeness. Whether you’ve had a stranger bump into you without apologizing or a receptionist snap at you for asking a question, you know the type of rudeness to which I’m referring. Though there’s no specific point in time when such encounters became tolerable, we must consider potential causes of this behavior and reinstate the practice of treating others with respect.
We need to reclaim the importance of courtesy. We all lead lives of self-inflicted urgency, and this sense of importance can cause us to place processes and projects above people; this jumbling of priorities leaves room for rudeness to become acceptable. We rush from place to place, only to realize that at the end of the day we didn’t truly see a single person. We unknowingly allow productivity to become a problem when we hold it in higher regard than common courtesy. While there is much to be praised about a focused individual who completes tasks in a timely manner, true success can is found in one who works diligently while also loving and respecting others.
There are many simple ways to extend courtesy to those around you. From cashiers to valet drivers, express gratitude to those who serve you throughout the day. Take a moment to send words of encouragement to a struggling friend. In a little or big way, make the effort to serve at least one person every day, even if you hardly know them. Often times, loving a person could simply mean speaking kindly or patiently to him.
These are all easy things to do on our good days, but this selfless behavior becomes much more meaningful when also practiced on our bad days. After a frustrating conflict or before a stressful presentation, we can be so entrenched in our own thoughts that we unintentionally treat others poorly. Regardless of circumstances, we must make the conscious effort to step outside of ourselves and treat others with respect. There are two things under the sun that man cannot live without: work and love. Without courtesy, kindness, and compassion, we compromise the part of our humanity that makes work worth completing.
Image via The Mop Top