Be Kind to Strangers

We've all been told never talk to strangers, but that doesn't mean we have to be rude to them. Modern Manners Guy on the importance of lending a helping hand.

Richie Frieman
3-minute read

I have a confession – I’m a people watcher.

I can’t help it, people just fascinate me. My people watching is a habit that comes in handy as Modern Manners Guy. People watching is especially fascinating on the street when many of us are in our own worlds and surrounded by strangers. We sometimes forget that the people around us are in fact...people.  

I believe unmannerly behavior occurs because we don't feel as though complete strangers deserve the same attention or respect as our friends. But that's just not true.

I think there is a way to balance being polite in public, without having to become “besties” with total strangers.

Tip #1: Traveling to Work

Every day millions of people travel by car, bus, or train on their daily commute to work. For some reason, public transportation is one of the worst places for decorum (well, aside from the dinner table at Donald Sterling’s house).  

Everyone is on their own mission; there's an “every man for himself” mentality. But that doesn't mean we get to escape basic manners rules such as: offering your seat to an elderly person, someone with a disability, a pregnant woman, a parent with a young child, or even just someone who visibly looks like they're in pain.

It's easy and the person will be incredibly thankful. It's also not optional as far as I'm concerend (unless of course you are yourself disabled, elderly, pregnant, or in pain).

Tip #2: Walking…Not Tackling

The other week I was in the city, walking to a meeting, when a guy came barreling through like a running back trying to break the tie for the Super Bowl. I’d like to say it was a ruffian teenager, but it was a suit and tie wearing businessman. Here is an example of someone who was in a rush, caring only about himself. I don’t know where he was heading but I hope he missed his appointment.

I will never understand why it's so hard to simply say, “Excuse me.”  Go ahead, try it. I bet it takes you all of .0034 seconds.

Even if you're going to act like a bull cut loose in Pamplona, you can still warn people that you’re coming through so they can get out of your way. I'm pretty certain that most of us would much rather step aside than have you shoulder block us to the curb.

Tip #3: Helping Hand

The other day, I saw an elderly woman drop her umbrella while waiting to cross the street (I was on the other side). Not one of the 6 people around her offered to pick it up. That’s someone’s grandmother, if not great-grandmother. How hard was it to do this small kindness for a stranger? Not very. And yet....

I believe in karma. And that has given me a different pair of glasses to see the world through. Good manners are like a domino effect - one good deed leads to another. So hold the door open for a stranger, give the pregnant woman your seat, help a lost tourist with directions. When you practice good manners toward strangers, it will come back to you tenfold.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success. It's available now!

People walking image courtesy of Shutterstock.