Is Common Courtesy Dead?

the death of common courtesy

In the 1960s and ’70s, it became popular to break the rules. It seemed that people were trying to be noticed by being rebellious. It was mainly the younger generations that were introducing the “shock factor” to society. They were very vocal about that fact that they were going to be different by destroying the social rules that were put in place to maintain some semblance of order. Many wondered if common courtesy was dead.

Yes, society was shocked. The music changed drastically, the clothing was sometimes non-existent, and respect for protocol went out the door. The Sexual Revolution was born along with several other movements during this time. Some great movements were born as a result of this time period, but they were introduced to society using the shock factor.

Today, 50 years later, we have progressed into a society that disregards rules of common courtesy too often, in my opinion. The focus seems to be on looking out for No. 1 and taking care of No. 1 and letting everyone else fend for themselves. Meanwhile, society continues to get louder, ruder, and more self-absorbed and is completely abandoning the general rules of civility and kindness. Somehow, we have become a society that rarely holds our tongue and believes everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, whether it’s solicited or not. We have resorted to speaking nonstop, not listening to others, and, many times, speaking above a polite volume.

When was the last time someone yelled at you, so you changed your mind and did what he or she wanted? Seriously! An effective leader can express his or her message without yelling or offending.  An effective speaker is strong but open and kind in his or her delivery. An effective leader is a great listener. The notion that one would express his or her opinion without thinking of the recipient is ludicrous.

Recently, I had a conversation with a group of young people, and I told them how common it has become to be rude these days. Our society seems to have become hardened and accepting of piercing opinions. Bad behavior has become the norm instead of the exception.

If you want to get my attention, BE POLITE, BE RESPECTFUL, and BE KIND! We have an epidemic of rude behavior taking place, and more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon. If you want to be noticed, return to civility and see how it is received. Pay attention to how others respond when you are careful and gentle with your words. I can assure you, you will be remembered and rewarded.


Colleen Harding is a certified etiquette and protocol instructor and the founder of the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol. Programs and packages available for children and businesses.