Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘the heat of the moment’. It’s often one of the most accepted excuses a person can use; “I only did that because of the heat of the moment.” But with every action you take you contribute to your character. Life doesn’t really have opt-out moments.
It can be a challenge in the moment to remember your etiquette skills, but that is when it counts the most. Think of your reputation like a bowl of water, and each action you make adds a drop of ink to the water and the colour of the ink represents the qualities of your character. No matter how much water is in the bowl, you’ll never be able to make the ink fully dissipate, but the good news is the colour you make the water is up to you. There’s not much crediquette (etiquette credit) in being good to people when you’re in a fine mood and everything’s going well. If you aren’t having a good day, it’s not fair for the people around you to be treated inconsiderately because of it.
There was a time in high school when I worked everyday after school. I was usually pretty tired and cranky and dealt with it by keeping to myself – to the extreme. If I was upset, I wouldn’t talk to my co-workers or even say ‘excuse me’ when I walked by. One night when I was leaving a co-worker I had never talked to asked me to say, “excuse me.” I did, and realized that I had been disrespecting my coworkers all along by failing to acknowledge them. It hadn’t been my intention to be rude. I honestly thought they didn’t even notice me and that I was just keeping to myself, not getting in anyone’s way.
The point of the story is that etiquette isn’t only about what you do; it’s also about what you don’t do. Being wrapped up in your own world isn’t a good reason to ignore the dignity of the people around you, let alone be rude to them. The best way for you to avoid doing this is to be conscious of it. Since it was pointed out to me I made a mental note to keep other people in mind.
If you want a more concrete strategy against this, ask someone how he or she is doing or give him or her a genuine compliment as soon as you notice yourself in a bad mood. Usually, I’ve found this enough to break my concentration away from what’s putting me in a bad mood and show whoever is around me that I know they’re there and care about them too. A smile and acknowledgement might be just the thing other people around you need too. Having a bad day doesn’t make you the centre of the world.
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