‘Courtesy’ includes the overlapping concepts of ‘politeness’ and ‘consideration’. It varies between communities. It can make people feel comfortable with each other:
● People can make each other feel better by observing the expected courtesies or, conversely, degrade the quality of each other’s lives by failing to be courteous.
● In a pluralist society, the obvious default form of politeness with strangers would be in the form of conventions determined by the majority culture – such as customary greetings.
● Within small close-knit groups from a minority culture, ethnic customs might be observed between group members – but with strangers it is clearly more tactful to comply with majority customs, at least to begin with.
● It is a basic courtesy for people to speak the language of the region where they live.
● The term ‘courtesy’ also includes considerate behaviour: avoiding annoyance to other people, for example, and acting to avert their discomfort.
● People may want to ask others to behave differently – for example, to reduce their noise level. It is courteous for people to accede to such requests, particularly if politely made – though there can be difficulties, as discussed below (4.4.3).
Within this meaning, the term ‘courtesy’ does not require agreement with the other person’s views and beliefs; it is a safe guide for everyone’s behaviour.
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/4424.htm