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Executive communication expert Dianna Booher explains how common courtesy produces good communication and relationships.
We are at our best when we are being kind, generous, and gracious to strangers—innocent strangers, kind strangers. But one of the most difficult places to demonstrate kindness and communicate respect is at home around family members. The reasons vary: We take them for granted and think they’ll love us anyway. We think they’re not worth the effort. We spend so much time with them that familiarity breeds irritability.Whatever the cause, rudeness in all its forms—words, actions, and inactions––has destroyed many family relationships. The revival of respect could revolutionize others.

Rude?  Who me? you ask.  In case there’s any question, here are some of the ways people communicate disrespect, disregard, and unconcern to each other at home in personal and social situations:

  1. not speaking to others when you enter a room
  2. failing to return a greeting when someone speaks to you
  3. not telling a family member where you’re going or how you can be reached in an emergency
  4. not telling someone when you expect to return
  5. borrowing others’ things without asking
  6. not returning items in good condition after borrowing them
  7. sulking and not talking when you’re in a bad mood
  8. using a harsh tone when speaking or responding to a question or comment
  9. slamming a door in someone’s face
  10. not writing down phone messages, assuming you’ll remember—and then forgetting to pass them on
  11. leaving food and beverages sitting around in common areas
  12. not offering to help others carry a heavy load
  13. not offering to lower the volume if a loud noise is disturbing others
  14. switching TV channels without asking when someone else is watching
  15. using sarcasm or put-down humor meant to embarrass others on sensitive issues
  16. failing to say please and thank you or express other pleasantries such as asking how others are feeling when they’ve been sick or asking how their day has gone

These represent just the basic discourteous behaviors that colleagues or friends would never expect from us at work. But on the job, these additional small acts of rudeness annoy, demean, and eventually weaken or break a relationship and lessen our influence:

  1. showing up late to a meeting and disrespecting others’ time
  2. speaking to some people but not others in a group
  3. “dressing someone down” in front of others so as to embarrass and humiliate that person
  4. excluding others from a group when getting together for breaks or for lunch simply because you feel they are not equal to you socially or intellectually

The opposite of these actions, of course, are the small kindnesses that convey respect for others, lift their spirits, build their self-esteem, make a heartache lighter, and increase your influence with them when you have an important belief or value to share.

You might want to consider the following tests in identifying dents in your communication style with family and close friends:

Test 1:  Would I want someone to capture this home behavior in the corporate newsletter or post a video on YouTube?

Test 2:  Would I be hesitant for my family members to talk candidly with my work colleagues and tell them what it’s like living and communicating with me at home?

Test 3:  What would my family members say about me at a roast on my next birthday—if they were completely honest?

Test 4: If I watched a movie starring myself, would I like the main character?

Over time, communicating respect through words and actions can pry open a closed mind and hard heart.


Dianna Booher, an expert in executive communications, is the author of 46 books, published in 26 countries and 20 languages.  Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate with Confidence, Revised Edition. As CEO of Booher Consultants and as a high-caliber keynote speaker, Dianna and her staff travel worldwide to deliver focused speeches and training programs to address specific communication challenges and increase effectiveness in oral, written, interpersonal, and organizational communication.

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6 thoughts on “Communication Skills: Does Courtesy Matter at Home As Well as at Work?”

    1. Thanks, Dennis, for stopping by. Courteous communication (words and actions) at home seems to be the most difficult place of all.

  1. Great post! I really enjoy your site. I must say the “Test 4: If I watched a movie starring myself, would I like the main character?” Don’t do anything that would be considered “cringeworthy” on the big screen and you should be good to go!

  2. Obviously the answer to the headline question is Yes! Interestingly, we were just discussing #5 over dinner the other night! Your last test, the movie starring yourself, is an interesting concept! Thanks for the timely reminder about manners.

    1. You’re so right, Mitch. Starring in our own movie–on some days–might not be occasion to claim bragging rights.

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