By Alena Hall: “Being considerate of others will take you and your children further in life than any college or professional degree.” – Marian Wright Edelman
Edelman, a renowned American activist, not only dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of disadvantaged children, but also served as a strong advocate for acting with consideration toward others. Being considerate, one of the roots of pure kindness, comes in many shapes in sizes. And whether you offer compliments solely for the emotional well-being of others or share what you have without expecting anything in return, it is a sense of civility that drives you to act considerately.
Abdulla M. Abdulhalim, a University of Maryland Ph.D. candidate in pharmaceutical health services research, served as a President’s Fellow in 2012. Alongside six others selected for the program, he examined the issue of civility, being considerate, why the two are important and how the university could help address them for society as a whole.
“We like simple definitions,” Abdulhalim told The Huffington Post. “Civility really is a more broad term compared to being considerate. Civility is simply just being nice, and it’s not only an attitude of benevolence, thoughtfulness and relating to other individuals. It also entails a real, active interest in the well-being of communities and even concern for the health of the planet. You have to really do an effort in order to be civil. And being considerate is a part of being civil.”
Taking a passive approach to behaving with consideration toward others can stem from our subconscious nature rather than intentional actions. However, that doesn’t mean we all can’t put a little effort toward being more considerate of those and the world around us. Here are seven habits that set considerate — and civil — people apart from the rest.
They practice empathy.
“Be [kind], for every man is fighting a hard battle.” – Rev. John Watson (aka Ian MacLaren)
It’s one thing to harbor a sense of empathy and another to put it into action. Considerate people are not only capable of figuratively putting themselves in other people’s shoes, they also actively choose to view the world beyond themselves. Their sense of compassion for others drives them to connect, and they derive personal joy and satisfaction from this selfless exchange.
“I think when someone is not acting this way, just the behavior itself seems really selfish,” said Abdulhalim. “No one will ever understand the perspective of another unless they take that person’s hand and consider things how they see it.”
They smile often.
Believe it or not, choosing to smile makes a significant impact on how others perceive you and your presence, not to mention your own mood. According to Abdulhalim, the body uses 42 different small muscles to smile, whereas a frown is the easy default. Make the effort to smile for the positive impact it has on others around you.
Abdulhalim suggests creating a reminder for yourself in developing this habit. “In the entrance of my building here, for example, there’s a big banner that says, ‘Civility, power,’ and different phrases that remind me that I need to smile at the face of a stranger, or maybe open the door for someone whom I don’t know, or maybe let them in the elevator first,” he said. “I think it is also very helpful to practice with yourself. If someone looks at themselves in the mirror and they frown or they smile, it’s a huge difference. You’ll realize how you look differently. People just don’t know how they look when they frown or when they give a nice smile.”
They are intuitive of other people’s needs.
As you channel your sense of empathy and consider how others around you are feeling, choose to act on that information. You never know, simply asking someone how they’re doing — regardless of its impact on your life — can do wonders for their mood and self-esteem.
“When you get into the elevator and you have 10 seconds to make a good impression or just remain quiet and look at your cell phone, I think if you ask, ‘How is your day?’ just to be nice, that’s being considerate,” said Abdulhalim. “Let’s face it: Do you really want to know how that person’s day is going? Is it something that would add to or change your life? Especially if that person is a stranger. From the face of it, you really don’t want to know. You just ask the question because you want to make the person in front of you feel like they’re valued. And that’s the point of being considerate in this situation — it’s not the content of the answer, it’s the intention.”
They mind their manners.
“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” – etiquette expert Emily Post
Being polite doesn’t begin and end with saying please, thank you, and you’re welcome. It involves a comprehensive acknowledgement of another person’s feelings and behaving accordingly. Follow the golden rule and treat others like you want to be treated — from being punctual (respecting others’ time) to not talking over others (exercising self-control) to actively listening to what others have to say.
“You can’t be considerate if you’re not really listening,” said Abdulhalim. “You have to really pay attention and grasp information, and even repeat it within yourself, to then provide feedback based on actual logic. Listen, process, and then act by logic, and pass that logic through empathy rather than blurting it out. Then the answer should come up with logic but in a considerate way.”
They put others first… sometimes.
“He who doesn’t consider himself is seldom considerate of others.” – David Seabury
Selflessness can be a double-edged sword for considerate people. While prioritizing others’ needs over our own makes people happy and creates a sense of fulfillment for us, we often lose our ability to take care of ourselves first when necessary and say “no.” However, striking that balance is just as important as being considerate in the first place — otherwise, we fall into the realm of people-pleasing, which leads to a decrease in our own productivity, according to Abdulhalim.
“It’s hard, he said. “But practicing the ‘no’ in smaller situations will help you say ‘no’ in more crucial situations. Practice is very important. The sweet spot is to know when to be considerate of others and when to be considerate of yourself.”
They are patient — even when they don’t feel like it.
Patience is far from a passive characteristic. It can be difficult to come by — especially when we feel stressed, overwhelmed, and surrounded everywhere by impatience. However, that’s all the more reason to find a sense of motivation and work on it.
“Many people I’ve met who are very nice and considerate would actually say, ‘Why should I be considerate when 95 percent of the time I finish last?’” said Abdulhalim. “And I agree with that logic, but you never lose if you are considerate. It depends really on how you look at it. Let’s say you’re civil to someone and they don’t reciprocate. Why don’t you use this as a motive for you to set a better example of how civility is really important for everyone? That goes back to being a positive influence. If you have this positive influence, then you have the motivation to be better and to influence others in a positive way.”
They apologize — but only when warranted.
Some people say “sorry” incessantly for fear of offending others with any and every move they make. Others forgo apologies altogether, coming across as quite rude and insensitive. Similar to the people-pleasing tendencies of kind and considerate people, apologies must find a sense of equilibrium.
“Sorry is a big word,” said Abdulhalim. “It means that you’re regretting an action you did. Being considerate means apologizing when you made a mistake and apologizing when you think you’ve made a mistake. But when you’re a people pleaser or overly apologetic, the only person you’re harming is yourself. People pleasers are usually less productive because they may not be available but make time anyway to help another person. Then that person knows they’re always available for them and they keep coming to you.”