Courtesy – Life’s Game Changer

Seychelles, a much in demand niche global destination for tourists who seek unpolluted air, azure blue waters, beautiful beaches and stunning nature’s kaleidoscope, was where I lived and worked for 14 unforgettable years as Head of Communications of the Seychelles Marketing Board. The heart of Seychelles were the Seychellois, simple, large hearted and hard working people. Warm and vibrant.

These 14 years were easily the best years of my life. Worked hard and played harder. These years just flew by before we realised. My daughter was born there and after a long day of work life was an endless honeymoon of full moon silvery oceans, nature trails and yummy creole cooking. We lived in a villa on top of a mountain at Le Niole. Right in the middle of the national park, in the wilderness and the lap of mother nature.

Its human nature to want to be noticed and feel acknowledged. Every country has their own rules of common courtesy and in Seychelles, you greet the other person with a smile even if you just met them a few hours ago in the same day. There is also another unique courtesy ritual when you are driving on the road and cross a car with someone you know at the wheel.You actually flash your headlights at the oncoming car to be greeted by a similar flash of the headlight. And you raise one finger of your hand which is on your steering wheel and you get a similar acknowledgment. This rule applies during the day or night!

Courtesy is the cornerstone of human connect and acknowledgement. It is a pivot of mutual respect. Very important in life and business today. How do you develop a mindset that keeps the culture of human courtesy at the fore?

Rewire yourself to a courtesy mindset

While every country has its own courtesy culture the core of all courtesy is to acknowledge the human being you are communicating with. Common courtesy is neither too much nor too little. It’s the right mix based on the culture of the company you belong to or the culture of company the person you are interacting with comes from. In India cultures vary hugely even from State of State. Good courtesy needs empathy, understanding mindsets and the ability to translate politeness into actions. While a business transaction meeting consists of creating win-win situations for both sides, courtesy creates a relaxed and fertile environment for the interaction. Courtesy helps at your workplace too, with colleagues.

If you are courteous by nature it helps a lot as all you need to do is amplify keeping in mind various cultural sensitivities. It’s tougher if you are not courteous by nature but like other mindsets you need to develop yourself to evolve to a courteous mindset consciously.

Is being courteous just being polite?

The answer is no. It’s having a disposition to respect the other person and acknowledging their presence in all genuineness. It does not mean sycophancy by any means or diluting the values you represent. Just having good business etiquette and being mindful of being welcoming and positive is enough. One new Japanese courtesy ritual that has crept into office meetings in India is the exchange of visiting cards. We stand up and even bow and give our visiting card to the person we are meeting holding the edges with both hands. The other person mirrors us. The only difference between the Japanese and us is that while the Japanese keep your visiting card in front of them at the meeting room table and carefully take it with them, in most meetings I have seen visiting cards on the floor or even left behind on the table after the meeting!

Simple tenets of courtesy

Here are 5 simple tenets of meeting room courtesy.

  1. Look into the eyes of the other person as you are introduced to them with a smile
  2. Shake hands firmly and briefly
  3. Please make them comfortable and show them where to sit during the meeting if you are hosting them
  4. Do not interrupt a conversation with your intervention.
  5. Listen more than you speak, acknowledge the points they make

There is much more. This is just the tip of the iceberg! Part 2 of this article follows soon.

“Courtesy costs nothing but buys everything” Hazrat Ali Ibn Abu Talib

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Amitesh Banerjee
Amitesh is a seasoned positive integrated communications disruptor with several years of multi- country/multi- domain experience. He has worked for reputed organisations in senior leadership positions including JWT, ITC, New Zealand Dairy Board, Seychelles Marketing Board, Perfect Relations, Genesis BCW, Adfactors, Della Group, H+K Strategies among others. Amitesh is Senior Vice President of Beanstalk Asia- a leading Integrated Marketing Communications firm.

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