Have you ever taken a moment to consider ‘polite’ versus ‘rude’, courtesy, manners in general, and what ‘consideration’ means in a detailed and nuanced way? Have you similarly considered how relative to our individual culture, clan, tribe, family, community, ‘scene’, or region these things all are? It’s these subtleties – and mismatches in practices and expectations – that result in fairly predictable ‘incompatibility’ issues that occur in my own experience. I think about these a lot.

Surely, if we all wish to treat each other well, and we all go forward ‘doing our best’ to treat others well moment-to-moment, and we are all similarly aware that people around us also hold the intent to treat others well, and are doing their best…surely the outcome is that we all feel well-treated? (Are you giggling? Are you frowning? Do you see where I am going with this?) Even if those things are simple truths – that we each wish to treat each other well, and are all doing our best to do so moment-to-moment – we likely won’t see the outcome of ‘everyone feels well treated’; as defined, the premises do not lead directly to the proposed outcome, at all. Good treatment is relative to cultural practices, our own expectations, and how we experience our experience. The understanding that we have treated others well, is similarly biased – and biased in our own favor, generally, because we believe we have ‘done our best’ – whatever that may have been.

That’s a hell of a gap. How do I bridge the gap? How do I treat others – all others – well, with consideration, with courtesy – universally recognized, no fail, always a win, courtesy is what I’m looking for here – and get the result that each person thus treated by me also feels well-treated? I am pondering this because of a longer-term association I have in which I feel fairly chronically mis-treated in willful and overt ways, lacking in any shred of courtesy or consideration – a circumstance in which I am also quite certain that this associate has no understanding at all that the day-to-day interactions are experienced by me as ‘mis-treatment’ in the first place. In some cases, explicit statements by me indicating that some specific behavior/action/language is unacceptable or inappropriate have been disregarded, in others they have been actively dismissed and argued with, but in most instances it is not clear that the conduct is intended to be abusive, lacking in courtesy, or intentionally hostile.

Sometimes well-meaning people are clueless asshats… But… sadly… sometimes they are not actually well-meaning people, based on their practices, choices, and actions. Practicing good self-care means building healthy relationships; abusive or unhealthy relationships do not support my emotional needs.

Words have definitions, and we are each having our own experience. What I consider ‘courteous’, ‘respectful’, or ‘considerate’ may not be quite the same as what another person finds defining about those concepts. Still… I think there are some cross-cultural behaviors that spell out universal ‘good treatment’ – or, I do until I try really looking at practices in other cultures. It’s complicated. “They mean well” is a phrase that matters; the intention of someone’s behavior is what let’s us ‘let it go’ more easily when customs clash. “They mean well” is a band-aid, though, a temporary fix; we build relationships. Choices and compromises over time, clear expectation setting and boundary observing conversations adjust our shared understanding of ‘good treatment’, ‘consideration’ and ‘courtesy’ – but only if we have those conversations.

So…I sit here considering all manner of things to do with manners, and where I got which idea that what notion amounts to ‘polite’, ‘considerate’, ‘supportive’…and how can I best express to others who matter most to me what I want and need – and what counts with me as ‘considerate’, and whether that is reasonable. Eventually, if words are said, ideas are shared, boundaries expressed, terms defined… and I still feel mis-treated… then what? Learning those boundary setting practices, the firmly drawn line in the sand, the opportunity not to compromise and instead politely decline additional mistreatment are similarly guided by custom, ‘manners’, and expectations of consideration… How do I treat others well who do not treat me well? It’s an important question for me to approach, and I approach it with great care. (Let’s get “why would I want to treat such people well?” out of the way; because it matters to me to be someone who treats others well. It’s not about them, it is who I am.)

Sometimes I can see where the path leads, but the way is not easy.

Sometimes I can see where the path leads, but the way is not easy.

Today is a good day for hard questions. Today is a good day for the very best self-care. Today is a good day to skillfully treat others well. Today is a good day to continue to honor and respect my values, in the face of mistreatment, without anger; we are each having our own experience. Today is a good day to change the world.