Dr. Romance writes:
How do you feel when you walk into a public rest room and there are papers all over the floor, unflushed toilets, and wet toilet seats? How do you feel about drivers who tailgate, zip around the roads going over the speed limit, and hog the road?
Most of us don’t like:
*rude “customer service” staff;
*long waits on senseless phone answering systems,
*the stock in the hardware or grocery store being all muddled and out of order,
*graffiti, litter and debris on our sidewalks and highways,
*public spitting, or
*people loudly talking on their cell phones in a restaurant or in line at the bank.
The larger our cities get, and the more people don’t know each other, and the easier it seems to be to be rude and careless about public behavior and property. In "The Power of Politeness" I wrote:
“Politeness and consideration are powerful. We all want to be liked, to be cared about and to be treated gently. We’re human, so we don’t always succeed in behaving our best. But, the more kindness and consideration we send out, the more returns to us.
“Rules of etiquette exist because to create civilization, we need boundaries. The rules of polite behavior may sometimes feel restrictive, but when people use them, they make new and awkward situations more comfortable. Etiquette is just a prescribed way of being polite and considerate to others. As we get to know each other better, we can relax the rules, but keeping the attitudes of consideration and respect guarantees a more successful connection.”
Even in anonymous situations, this holds true. Do you remember the movie and book titled Pay it Forward ? Its concept was: if someone does something nice for you or helps you, and you can’t really repay them, do kind things for others as a way of paying your debt of gratitude. In other words, pay it forward. The thing about this process is that it tends to get other people thinking about being more considerate themselves.
The lockers in the gym I go to tend to be left open, papers on the floor, etc. I notice, when I go around and close all the open, empty lockers (which is better for the hinges – and we’ve lost a few doors lately) other people tend to close theirs. People are also less likely to mess up a tidy bathroom than a messy one. The “broken windows theory” employed to such good effect in several cities around the country posits that if you fix problems while they are small, that further petty crime and low-level anti-social behavior will be deterred.
In other words, people are influenced to be more careful about messing up clean and neat surroundings than messy ones. So, in the interest of making all our lives more courteous and pleasant, I offer these suggestions for Public Politeness, some of which came from other people on Twitter.
Feel free to post them in your favorite public restroom, online wherever you like, or hand them out to passers-by in the street, and please attribute me as the author.