EP — 18 How Do We Get Courtesy Back? (Graciousness Part 1 of 4)


This Month’s Topic is Graciousness

EP —18 The Secret of Courtesy

To answer before listening, that is folly and shame. — Proverbs 18: 13, NIV

Jade, a precious stone, was overlooked by conquistadors.

Jade, a precious stone, was overlooked by conquistadors.

One of the oldest stones used for jewelry is jade. Two types exist, called jadeite and nephrite. The most sought after is an emerald green, although jade is found in lavenders, white, reddish brown, apple green, and mixed variety. Jade cutters are specialized and mostly found in China because Spanish Conquistadors extinguished jade cutting in the Americas in Pre-Columbian times. Impatient for the gold they valued, they viewed jade as a distracting bauble of no consequence. With a brush of a hand, annoyed conquistadors lost opportunities.

  • Have you ever felt like you’d romped with a porcupine?
  • Have your words or actions speared someone else with sharp quills?
  • What was the result?

Angie’s Story

The busy travel agency had a steady stream of clients. There were four travel agents at that time, and four desks. Mine was at the back. This was the time before the travel industry had taken a nosedive from online purchasing and changed airline rules.

“Certainly, I can book that for you.” I answered.

“But I’m not sure when I should go. Are there any specials?” The gentleman asked over the phone.

“Not really. Travel to Europe is more a matter of seasons right now. But I can check if you’ll give me a couple of minutes.” The line went dead. Oh no, I wondered if making him wait those few minutes caused irritation. I sighed. I should have punched in the most common route and quoted it.

The phone rang. From the desk next to me, another agent answered, “Yes sir, she’s right here. One moment please.”

I picked up the line and heard my client say, “I’m sorry, the lines up here are sketchy sometimes.”

“Oh that’s all right. Maybe you could give me your number just in case you get cut off.” I jotted down what he told me on a scratch pad.

The agency owner glanced back. “What’s going on back there?”

“Excuse me one moment, sir,” I covered the mouthpiece. “I just had a customer cut off, but we’re fine.”

She looked annoyed, but went back to her work.

“Okay,” I said. “I managed to find out that I can get you to London and then after a short layover, you can go on to Brussels.”

“That’s great. After that, I need to spend two days in Rome and then over to Paris.”

“And you’re sure the dates don’t matter?”

“No, as long as I let them know when I’ll be there, the meetings can be made around my schedule.”

I smiled. “Wouldn’t that be cool?” I teased back, matching his light tone as I worked. “To be the one traveling around the world and everyone is at your beck and call. Nice.” I continued building the schedule between the cities he needed for the business trip, but I could feel my boss glaring at me.

“Stop playing!” She growled. “I don’t pay you to waste time.”

Ignoring her, I hit the enter key.

He bantered back as we waited for the computer to catch up to me. “It is nice when the world revolves around me.” He laughed, and I laughed with him.

I sent up a silent prayer, thanking God for pleasant people that made up for the not-so-pleasant people in the world. “Well, you won’t believe it!”


If he were in front of my desk, I knew he’d be leaning in to hear the good news. Of course, if he were in front of my desk, my boss wouldn’t be so suspicious. She’d be able to see the customer. “I found a special!” We’d have high-fived over my desk, if he sat in the office; we settled for a whoo-hoo over the crackly line.

I told him the fare. “This special, you’ll save about two hundred dollars, if we back you up by one day.” We whoo-hooed again. It would have been so much fun to have this client here instead of miles away. “Want to?”

“Yep. Let me get my credit card.” He punched a button, and I could hear the tinny sound of being on speaker.

“Make sure and grab your frequent flier card, too.” I called into the receiver. I smiled again as I listened to him rustle around his desk and chat about such a find, this new agent of his, was for the budget. I felt great. I loved helping people, and I loved it when something good like this happened.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Claudette coming toward me. She lifted her eyebrow and stared at me. My grin melted like cheese under a broiler.

The line went dead again. “Oh for Pete’s sake!” I pulled the snippet of paper over and dialed the number.

“What do you think you are doing?” Claudette demanded. “Are you making a long distance call?”

“I’m calling my client back.” The phone rang.

He picked up. “Hi, I’ve got my—”

Claws grabbed the phone out of my hand and shouted into it. “You don’t make long distance calls!” And she hung up.

“What did you do that for?”

“You need to get back to work.”

“Claudette, that was work.”

“That was you goofing around and making me pay for long distance to your friends.”

“What?” Where’s the camera? I scrunched my brows and looked around behind her. Where’s the practical joker? Nothing. No camera. No silly laughter from the other agents. They sat with their faces averted. “He was getting me his credit card.”

“No more long distance. Do you understand me?” She spun on her heel and stalked back to the front cubicle.

If Claudette had only listened, I’d have closed quite a large sale. Her impatience to save money on a small expense caused a judgment error and cost her the income of not only this ticket, but of the future business from my would-be client and his new endeavors.

That happened years ago. It was undoubtedly one of the best lessons of my life because I understood the harmful ricochet effect. I saw the quick assumption from my boss: damaged business, unprofessional behavior, people devalued, and the loss of trust. Claudette’s assumptive impatience stood in the way of relationship and logic. But I learned to listen first.

  • Which is more common for you: rushing or fearing the decision?
  • What kind of person do you want to be?
  • Are patience and common courtesy connected?

Sometimes it’s the listening. Waiting as someone tells a story. Claudette would race into the room and fire off a bunch of questions. She’d be on the fifth question, all the while not hearing people try to answer them, and have employees flustered and upset.

It’s interesting that impatient people seem to be the ones who can’t take the time to listen to the other person. Yet they get upset when things aren’t done correctly (i.e., their way). Impatience leads to inappropriate interference, and then confusion wins over common sense.

It’s easy to feel like a bunch of sharp porcupine quills are sticking out of your skin after a run-in with an impatient person.

Are you the one doing the sticking?


  • Impatience, quick, snappy, irritable, edgy, quick-tempered, thoughtless decisions.
  • Procrastination, postpones action, dilly-dally, delay, stall.

Polishing Point

There is time for an even keel in most situations. We’ve become so busy that we no longer recognize the difference between emergent and important. Like an abused child who is used to a house full of shouting and beatings, emergent seems normal. We’ve been trained in this culture of immediacy to accept the unacceptable and become a society lacking common courtesies. But does it have to stay that way?


  • Emergent: crisis, danger, difficulty, serious situation needing prompt attention.
  • Important: having great effect, monumental influence, high-ranking, great authority.
  • Patience: calm endurance, composure, self-control, serenity.

How do we cope with impatient people? Remember that funny little proverb, “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” It’s easy to get caught up in emotion and then own the problem. Stop.

Slow down and become observant. When someone else seems to be spinning out of control, take a step back and watch. Intense feelings are contagious.

How do you practice patience? Recognize the traits. Distance yourself from toxic emotions by physically taking a step back or lifting your hands off the desk.

Here’s an example: At a more recent job, I sat at the desk counting money and using archaic forms to track inventory. Another woman, a little higher strung, began grabbing various papers and portions of the money “to help.” She’d done it before, the grabbing and shuffling. Rather than get drawn into her tension, I lifted my hands off the paperwork and rolled my chair back away from the desk.

Why? It wasn’t worth the stress. She may have been impatient, but I wasn’t. I could wait it out and watch. I didn’t need to buy into the high-level confusion. I’ve noticed that participating in someone else’s perceived emergency doesn’t speed up the process, but it does raise my blood pressure.

It’s interesting to note the reaction of the other person. They might try to draw you in with accusing questions or emotional statements. They live in the world of discourtesy and impatience. That’s their world, not mine, and it doesn’t have to be yours.

When you notice an impatient person, mentally slow down. Watch. Notice the other reactions around you. Notice how unproductive and confusing the scene becomes. I say “scene” because it is helpful to consider the experience from an objective point of view—like watching a movie, on the outside looking in.

Consider the sailor in the crow’s nest and how his entire focus is to watch. Be like that sailor: watchful and thoughtful. Pick out the nuances of impatience the way the sailor picks out dark clouds in the distance.

How does abrupt behavior make you feel? How do the other people in the room react? Does anyone become defensive against the storm of discourtesy?

Try a quiet response. “Can you slow down please?” Remember that a quiet response is crucial. No yelling. Loud voices only amp up the emotion. Quiet voices actually stand out. The world isn’t all rush-rush. We’ve created it. We can uncreate it. Think about it: How do other societies around the world exist? Why do we have to feed on impatience?

How do you deal with impatience? Watch, get quiet, and recognize selfish, unproductive words and actions. Begin to focus on courtesy rather than intense pressure. Visualize serenity by thinking on pure things. Calm can be as catching as impatience.

I plan to practice patience, serenity, and professional behavior so I will not create added tension. That’s what I have control over today. How about you?


Appreciation moments:

The retweets and Facebook shares are so appreciated. I have to say thank you to:

Anita Morrison, Christine Lindsey, Pastor Michael Duncan, Maureen Pratt, Pam Farrel, Linda Evans Shepherd, the Leading Hearts Magazine tweets @myleadinghearts. I appreciate you all, thank you.

Did you miss previous topics? Here’s the first in each topical series…




Boundaries (This one is special for handling tough personalities at family holidays)