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In pursuit of civility

September 16, 2018

My son started kindergarten at a new school last month, and we are learning the ropes on campus. One thing that has struck me is the level of awareness and resulting courtesy exhibited by the students.

The kids are always holding the door for me. It’s a helpful gesture that’s simple in its delivery but speaks volumes about the students’ social development and future success as members of society.

Our relationship to and behavior in the outside world informs how we succeed as a community. Civilization is dependent upon human interaction. The moment we leave the house, make a call or write a post online, we are engaging members of society.

In pursuit of civility, here are tips on courtesy to navigate our communities near and far while in motion.

• Hold the door for any and all.

• Stand right. Walk left. In the U.S., stand to the right on stairwells, escalators and moving sidewalks, putting your bag behind or in front of you and allowing people to pass on the left.

• Step to the side of a sidewalk or room to consult a phone, map or friend. Do not walk while looking down at your phone — far too big a risk of accidents!

• Passengers exit first. When bus, train or elevator doors open, always let the passengers inside exit first before attempting to board. Same goes for entering buildings — the people exiting have the right of way, creating space for you to enter.

• Don’t cough or sneeze in your hand, which transfers germs to poles, door handles or seats. Cover your mouth with a tissue or sneeze into your elbow.

• Have your fare ready for quick boarding.

• Headphone volume should be set so your music or game is only audible to you. Do a test to see if you can hear the beat of your music or the rat-a-tat-tat of a video game by asking a friend to try on your headphones.

• Keep cellphone ringers off or low and conversations brief, in soft tones, with G-rated content.

• Be articulate and don’t curse in public, especially around children.

• Give up your seat on the bus or park bench for someone who truly needs or would appreciate it (for example, expectant mothers, elders and people with disabilities).

• Be aware of how much space you are taking up and avoid spilling over into your neighbor’s territory (aka “manspreading”). This includes putting your belongings on an empty seat in the terminal or waiting room that could otherwise be occupied.

• Give parents a break and a hand. Traveling with little ones is no small feat.

• Perfume and other scented products can be just as odoriferous as body odor. Be conscientious about how you smell in tight quarters.

• Save extensive grooming for the privacy of a bathroom. Touching up makeup and tidying your hair is acceptable.

• The center seat gets (and earns) both arm rests on a flight.

• Remove your backpack to avoid knocking into someone in tight spaces.

• Be of service to those who need an extra hand.

• Share a compliment or make an observation with a stranger or familiar face.

• Acknowledge the people around you with eye contact, a smile or a greeting. Remember your “please” and “thank yous.” Always say “Hello” when entering a business.

Evenings find our family sounding out letters and counting numbers but I can find no better lesson than building our son’s awareness of the world around him. Use etiquette as a tool to move through society with ease and thoughtfulness, one door at a time.

Bizia Greene is an etiquette expert and founder of the Etiquette School of Santa Fe. Send your comments and conundrums to 988-2070 or hello@etiquettesantafe.

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