A life of ease is a difficult pursuit.
-- William Cowper

 

   

The MONTHLY Motivator - October 2004

Civilized behavior

In our highly technical and specialized world, we are more dependent on one another than ever before. Indeed, one thing that defines an advanced civilization is the degree to which its people depend on each other. And in order for civilization to work, we must practice courtesy, respect and other civilized behaviors, toward one another.

Being so highly interdependent, we each serve our own interests best when we take into consideration the interests of others. That is the essence of civilized behavior, and the foundation for a powerful and effective society. It is also the basis for personal success and achievement within that society.

As the world has become more complex, many of our interactions have become more distant, technical and standardized in nature. Instead of ordering a meal from a waitress, we talk to a faceless microphone imbedded in the menu of the drive-through lane. Instead of getting cash from a human bank teller, we get it from the ATM machine. We interact with suppliers, clients, employees and customers by long-distance telephone connections, fax and e-mail, rather than in person. Products and services that were once highly customized -- things such as investments, vacations, and medical care -- are often delivered as standardized packages. We buy appliances and home electronics products from mega-stores where the salespeople know little more about the features of the products than what the manufacturers have printed on the boxes.

While all of this has led to an improved quality of life on some levels, it has at the same time reduced the quality of our personal interactions. The challenge of successful living in such a world, is to embrace the benefits of using the “system”, while at the same time keeping in mind that all your actions have consequences. And these consequences affect real people just like you.

It may make you angry when there’s a mistake on your bank balance, and when you call to complain you have to go through 4 levels of voice mail menus before reaching a live person. Yet when you finally do get to talk with someone, keep in mind that (1) he or she is probably not the person who caused the mistake, and (2) your problem will be solved much more quickly and easily if you approach the person with an attitude of courtesy, respect and cooperation. Though the “natural” reaction would be to start off angrily or sarcastically, you can gain a clear advantage for yourself by practicing civilized behavior, by making an effort to proceed with courtesy and respect.

The very best way to get what you want out of life, is to help as many people as possible to get what they want. In pursuit of such, being rude and obnoxious will not get you very far. Respect, politeness, kindness and courtesy will.


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—Ralph Marston