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)


EP — 17 Setting Boundaries for Family Holidays



Setting boundaries for family holidays

  • Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial — 1 Corin. 6: 12
  • Setting boundaries for family holidays takes pre-planning.
  • People feel they can say or do anything without ramifications.
  • People we love, the closest to us, often take advantage of that relationship to say and do anything that isn’t respectful or kind. Unfiltered meanness isn’t appropriate. There may be some exceptions like mental illness or medical reason, but it doesn’t mean you have to take that.
  • Blaming and scapegoating visual or personal issues by attacking verbally isn’t appropriate. Attacking a symptom is not okay. Because of being a family or friend doesn’t give anyone the right to attack you personally.
  • Repetitive patterns can be changed by being proactive instead of reactive. That person who always says that same thing…Be prepared for it this year.
  • The blame and shame game isn’t going to change anything. What are you going to do differently to change the equation with habitual attackers?
  • Brainstorm new responses in advance. Some general ideas:
    • Excuse me? Were you meaning to be so rude? (This is holding your boundaries, calling them on the carpet is not rude.)
    • Choose to remove yourself.
    • Choose not to go to the event.
    • Head it off before it starts: Happy to see you here. I’m expecting you’re going to be polite through the whole evening…is that right?
    • What are some other, more gracious ways?
    • I’m sure you didn’t mean that they way it sounded, what did you really mean?
    • I understand you’ve said that to me before. But since nothing has changed, I’m just going to let you rest with that.
    • When I feel ready to have that conversation, I’ll let you know. But until then, this topic is closed.
    • Turn to someone else and start a different conversation.
    • If the attacker must share their opinion: Thanks for that opinion. (And then move on to something else without saying anything else.)
    • Those words sound a little bit too heavy. At this point I’d rather enjoy my time with family, would you?
    • Wow, I didn’t come for this kind of a show, did you? Let’s have a nice conversation.
    • I don’t really want to talk about that right now. I’m here to enjoy you and the rest of the family, let’s do that now.
    • What about foods you don’t like. You just don’t have to tell them, “That is the worst casserole…” Ask yourself: who was encouraged, who was uplifted? There’s no reason to hurt feelings that way.
    • Consider taking a portion for later. Stick it in the fridge. Then you can discreetly dispose of it later or give it to someone that loves it. There’s gracious ways around it.
    • You can always say thank you, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
  • What about food pushers, especially with food you can’t stand? You’ll have to listen to the show for the coconut cake story 😉
  • Recognize the intent of the person. If it’s out of love or bonding or caring, honor and respect the intent. If it’s disrespect/tearing you down, superiority, power/control, attack, or abuse then call a boundary by taking yourself out of the situation or stopping the conversation.
  • What if you can’t get out of a family or social event that you know will be miserable, but you can’t get out of it without a big battle?
    • Take things with to give you the opportunity to entertain yourself and keep your mind busy. Ideas include: handicrafts, puzzles, books, games (for one or more)…
    • Use your handicraft as a conversation opener like bring along extra knitting tools, scrapbooking elements, crafts that you can teach or share for fun. You might be surprised at how people will join you. But if not, you’re still enjoying yourself and being productive.
    • Have a quiet conversation with someone you do enjoy at the event.
    • Coloring books for kids (and now there’s adult coloring books).
    • Make Christmas cards, family albums, etc.
    • Interview the elderly family members for a record. Take pictures and create family memories.
    • When all else fails, take a book and get immersed in the pages.
  • Think about relationship building ideas to use while you’re there.
  • Answer courteously and respect the intent.
  • Who are your problem people? How might you be proactive and plan ahead of time for a better experience?
  • An appreciation moment to Jenn Davis who took time out of her day to share that she put The Debutante Queen on her Amazon wish list…and then for the super fun conversation she and I ended up having on Facebook when she asked me a few questions about the stories. Thanks for making my day, Jenn!
  • Thank you to Martha Artyomenko and Carrie Fancett Pagels for connecting me to a new friend so we could talk about my book.
  • A big thank you to Tristan and Forrest Leder who recorded The Debutante Queen. It released today on Audible. I’m excited for this whole Montana Beginnings series as each book releases and then also goes to audiobook.
  • Thank you to friends like Ava Pennington, Carla Breidenbach, and quite a few volunteers who helped me with a bit of behind-the-scenes needs this last week. No one ever is a one-woman show. I couldn’t do it without you, my friends.

Please let me know if any of these ideas helped you and do share your ideas with other listeners, too, at any of these places:

Tweet me at: @AngBreidenbach

What other ideas would you like shared here on Grace Under Pressure Radio?

Did you miss any of the past episodes?

Boundaries part 1 (shining from within)

Boundaries part 2 (be proactive)

Boundaries part 3 (take care of yourself first)


EP — 16 Boundaries and Self-care

Protect amethyst from bright sunlight and tanning beds to avoid fading

EP—16 Self-Care

Appreciation moments:

  • Thank you to Liz Tolsma @LizTolsma for retweeting about my Christmas-themed book, The Debutante Queen. It’s just released on twitter as a single, first in the Montana Beginnings series, but it’s also due to release by Thanksgiving on Audible. Very exciting! Here’s the clickable cover on the left.
  • Thank you to Cat’s Books on Twitter for tweeting about my book, The Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection releasing Jan. 1st 2016 from Barbour Publishing. Your review on your blog, is very appreciated! (My book in that collection is called Bridal Whispers and is a retelling of my grandparents’ romance. No kidding! They married because of town gossip! But without that gossip forcing them to marry, I wouldn’t be here today.)
  • Thank you to April McGowan @aprilkmcgowan for retweeting my article on @mtlmagazine. It’s about dealing with being overwhelmed. I can’t think of a better article to refer to as we head into today’s show!
  • Part 3 of our 4 part series on boundaries has to do with recognizing our need for self-care. As we start, let me tell you about a couple of misperceptions.
  • The amethyst is an interesting gem. Daylight can rob the amethyst of its natural color as can tanning beds. Quick changes from hot to cold is also risky.
  • Caring for ourselves is like that stone. If we don’t make sure to protect from overexposure in relationships, we can quickly fade. But when we ignore the need for alone time or respite or prayer, we become extremely fragile and can emotionally crack.
  • I’m sure you’ve heard the flight attendant say to first put on your own oxygen mask and then assist your child or someone else. You’ve probably heard that referenced in other talks. But let me help you to catch the vivid reality of why…
  • Becoming a flight attendant, I had to go through safety training. We watched a video of 2 military trainee pilots experience oxygen deprivation. Everyone else wore oxygen masks, but the 2 trainees removed theirs in the simulator. Within seconds the men lost the ability to concentrate. They couldn’t perform a simple clapping game or remember how. Everyone erupted into laughter as the grown men flailed around and showed signs of fatigue. Then they were asked to apply siren red lipstick using a mirror. Very carefully the men drew lines all around their mouths and up around their eyes. Mirrors were taken away. When they were hooked back up to oxygen, they discussed the experience. The men looked at each other and laughed. Then they were given mirrors to look at themselves. Stunned, the trainees were flabbergasted to see their own reflections. Contrary to our auto response, we are supposed to take care of ourselves first. Not out of selfishness. But so that we can avoid a disaster…which neither pilot could spell correctly without oxygen.
  • Does stress sometimes deprive you of “oxygen”?
  • Has that kind of constant stress become normal to you?
  • Do you live on adrenaline, caffeine, or feed on stress?
  • Would you want to see yourself in a video during a recent stressful situation?
  • Have you asked for help lately or are you afraid to be vulnerable?
  • Raising six kids, working full time, caring for my mentally ill mother, working at the church I attended, I needed to withdraw and recuperate. I stumbled on my coping mechanism, cocooning, by accident. The only place I could go and not interact with anyone (or be seen by anyone) was the movie theater. The movie was a comedy. I’d asked others and no one wanted to see it. I’d never attended a movie by myself. But I needed a break from the constant demands. I could sit alone in the dark for 2 hours in the air conditioning — and I might laugh. Why not?
  • Going to the movies by myself, in secret, became my cocoon for years until one day my son switched shifts and caught me. Every now and then, I still go.
  • Cocooning (private time) isn’t about being antisocial. It’s about pulling away from the crowds and the demands to give your emotions, body, and mind a break.
  • Often abused people are not allowed privacy. It’s about power and control for the abuser. That’s crossing boundaries. You have a right to alone time, privacy, closed doors when you close them, time to rest. If you’re not getting that, if your abuser won’t respect that you need privacy there’s a lot bigger issue at stake. Please visit your local YWCA or at least take a look online at the Power and Abuse Wheel. Your private time is your emotional oxygen. Without it, without the chance to simply be with God, you’re going to make disastrous decisions just like those pilot trainees — and you won’t even be aware of it.
  • Where can you cocoon? Try the movies, a café, a library, your house if it’s safe and comfortable, a walk in nature, read a book…anything that allows you to decompress.
  • There’s no right way to cocoon. A cocoon time is a way to wrap your soul in a safe place in order to refill energy and a sense of self. Add a prayer. Connect to peace while you disconnect from chaos. It doesn’t matter where. It just needs to happen.
  • Then reemerge into the world again, refreshed and ready to spread your wings.
  • Does knowing that other people need time to recharge help you to recognize that need is real? What would you do if you had 2 hours tomorrow to cocoon? A whole day? A weekend?
  • Take an honest look at your schedule. Jot in cocooning. No excuses, even Jesus needed it.

Luke 5: 16, CEV “But Jesus would often go to some place where he could be alone and pray.”

Are we really any better? Let’s take the example Jesus set and get alone to take care of ourselves.

Did you miss an episode? Here’s the first 2 parts of Boundaries:

Boundaries Episode 14: Shining Inside

Boundaries Episode 15: Proactive versus Reactive

Want to start at the very beginning? Welcome to Grace Under Pressure Radio