When you are going to and from work; headed for lunch; doing your shopping or just generally enjoying the outdoors, it’s easy to forget the “little things” that show appreciation for others and make everyone’s life easier. Call them “common courtesies” if you will, but if they were “common” we wouldn’t forget to do them!
Journey with me through some points to remember.
» Walk in the same direction as traffic on the sidewalk. If you are approaching someone, pass them on your right (their left).
» Men, if you are with a female, walk on the outside of the sidewalk. Why? It’s a common courtesy that began in England at least as far back as the time of Shakespeare. Originally, it was to protect women from the possibility of being run over or splashed with mud by carriages. In addition, because people threw their trash out the windows onto the street, women were shielded by men to prevent them from getting covered in garbage or worse! A man also walked on the right to leave his sword arms free and to have space to use it. The sword was worn on the man’s left but unsheathed with the right hand. While we don’t have to contend with swordplay or mud and garbage from the streets, today it is considered a “gentlemanly” and polite courtesy.
» Skateboarders and bicyclists should never ride on the sidewalk, only in the bike lanes. It is dangerous to do so among pedestrians.
» Avoid jaywalking. Primarily, it is dangerous to your health and that of others. Go to a crosswalk and stop. Make sure both the car nearest you and those behind it see you and stop. You don’t want the car stopping for you at a crosswalk to get rear-ended.
» If you see a blind or elderly person needing help at a crosswalk, approach that person on the left and let him or her know you would like to help. Take the person’s left arm and help him or her across, indicating when to step up or down. That person will appreciate your kindness, and it will make you feel better about yourself as well.
» Open doors for people with canes, wheelchairs or scooters for the disabled. Look at and speak to them. Don’t look away or avoid eye contact. Doing so is hurtful to them and makes them feel they don’t exist. While you are at it, open doors for both men and women, whether they are elderly or not. It’s just the polite thing to do.
» Use the 10-5-3 Rule as you approach people. When you are 10 feet away, acknowledge the person with your eyes. When you are 5 feet away, smile and nod your head. When you are 3 feet away, greet the person with “hello.” Not everyone will do so, but it is a great way to brighten someone else’s day. Think about it. When you are acknowledged, doesn’t it lighten your step a bit?
» Don’t text while walking (or driving, for that matter.) If you need to text, step to the side, stop and do so. Otherwise, you will run into others or into a solid object or open hole that might send you to the hospital. When you are talking on the phone, be aware of where you’re going and don’t walk out into the street or otherwise put yourself in harm’s way.
» On a moving sidewalk or escalator, always stay to the right to make it easy for others to pass you on the left. In other words, don’t block the passing lane. The same goes when you are driving. Stay out of the passing lane unless you are going around another car.
» When the elevator doors open, let those on it unload before you board. Young boys and men should hold the doors open for others. Again, it is just another common courtesy.
» When driving and two cars are at a stop sign, the car on the right has the right-of-way. It is the law and is courteous. Don’t cut off other cars or use your vehicle as a way to take out your general frustrations. It is an act of hostility that can end a life — yours or another.
» Finally, use your car horn only as a safety factor, not to impatiently urge others through a light or turn. You may not be able to see that they are waiting for a pedestrian or another car to pass.
Some will say that this is an outdated way to behave. My response? Since when are good manners, kindness, consideration for others and courtesy outdated?
Sidewalk Etiquette, on Video
— John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class, get more information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara, or to get his book. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook. Follow John Daly on Twitter: @johndalyjr. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.