Key learning outcomes:

  • Acknowledge that common courtesy is still relevant in all aspects of our lives.
  • Show how pleasant behaviour can enhance your success in negotiations.
  • Learn the importance of building rapport with the other party in business interactions, and engaging in appropriate behaviour at all times.
  • Recognise the positive impact of saying “thank you”.


In this day and age of high technology, globalisation and fast-paced change, is common courtesy as important as it used to be? As children, most of us were taught to say “please” and “thank you”, to respect our elders and to ask politely when we wanted something.

A quick walk around a local shopping centre will tell you that today many people do not see the value in or understand the concept of common courtesy. There is plenty of pushing and shoving, people do not think twice about complaining rudely if something does not suit them, and heaven help you if you an older person looking for a seat in the food court, generation Y is not getting up for you!

Does that mean common courtesy is a thing of the past? We suggest not.

Is there opportunity for those who value being genuinely courteous to stand out from the competition? We suggest there is.

Is there value in teaching courtesy as a skill to those who perhaps were not taught it in their youth, or refreshing the concept for those who might have forgotten how important it is? We definitely think so.

Here are a few lessons that might be worth taking on board:

Being nice is not a sign of weakness There is an old saying that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, and it still rings true today. Being pleasant does not mean that you are a pushover in negotiations. In fact, some of the best negotiators we know actually get more out of the deal just because they are pleasant to deal with. Remember that you need to be genuine; people can spot fakeness and will not respond favourably to it.

Ask don’t assume Asking permission to do something when you are dealing with someone shows considerable courtesy. Use language such as “would you mind?” or “would it be okay?”. Additionally, when they say “yes” it gives you permission to move to the next step. For example, in a sales presentation you may ask, “would you mind if I took some notes?” If the person agrees, they will no longer feel uncomfortable about what you might be writing and it helps to involve them in the process. By asking permission we are able to stay in control of the process while still building rapport.

Respect your elders When you are dealing with an older person, it is a sign of respect if you call them by their title rather than assume you can call them by their first name. Younger generations have become less formal; however, it is important to remember that each generation’s values are different. Again it does not show weakness but shows a level of understanding for the person you are dealing with. When an older person says to you, “please call me John”, be happy as this is a clear sign you have moved to the next level in your relationship.

Be appropriateNone of us like someone who is pushy or presumptuous or who makes us feel uncomfortable when their behaviour is inappropriate. When someone is our client or potential client, it is important to remember that it is about them and not about us. So we should ensure that our behaviour is appropriate to them and their culture. All the little things such as ensuring our dress is appropriate for the situation, right through to the language we use, can help a person decide whether or not you are “on the same wavelength”.

Remember to say thank you It is amazing how many forget something so simple. Thanking someone for an opportunity to present to them or for doing something for you can have a bigger impact than you might imagine. Recent research out of the United States shows that a simple thank you card can have a huge impact on someone’s performance and attitude when performing a task. The research also shows that it will have a greater impact if the thank you precedes the work being performed.

Today’s business world continues to become more competitive day by day, and it is harder than ever to differentiate yourself from the competition through being unique. It is important that in the rush to win business over the competition that we do not forget how important simple things like common courtesy are. Never forget that people will do business with you if they know you, like you and trust you. It is vital to make yourself easy to like!

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