Common Courtesy is Not Common

Yesterday while taping a segment of Forum 360, I complimented guest Peter Lawson Jones on his ten year long ability to be responsive to email. He replied, “Its common courtesy”.

Webster defines common courtesy as the politeness that people can usually be expected to show. WOW – that is so vague!

I say it is UNCOMMON COURTESY. Now I realize it may not be that simple.

If courtesy is politeness then that gets to decide? Is it polite to answer in ten minutes or ten hours? Typically the larger the company the longer it will take to get an answer. Does politeness shift? Is there one agreed upon set of politeness or is it a moving target?

I thought I knew. Apparently I don’t know. I turned again to Webster to define polite: having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people. What I consider respectful may not be what you consider respectful.

I feel like a dog chasing its tail.

How long to take before returning a call and still be courteous? How long to take before getting back to a candidate during the interview process? The polite time for internet connectivity changed greatly when we left the world of dial up.

Just because it is not specific doesn’t mean we can’t recognize courtesy and uncourteous behavior when we see and hear it. I defer to what SCOTUS said about pornography.

The phrase “I know it when I see it” is a colloquial expression designed to categorize an observable fact or event, although the category is subjective or lacks clearly defined parameters. The phrase was used in 1964 by United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to describe his threshold test for obscenity.

I know courteous behavior when I see it.

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