The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Golden Rules of Respectful Behavior || Dorothy Wallis

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Golden Rules of Respectful Behavior

By Dorothy Wallis


It may seem old fashioned in this day and age to be polite.  If you want to have friends, be liked and create a fabulous first impression, it makes sense to acquire courteous and respectful behaviors.  More importantly, it is a matter of safety.  Civility has become a societal problem.  The public affairs firm, Powell Tate and KRC Research found that 95% of Americans say that civility is a serious problem with 86% of Americans reporting they have been victims of incivility.  Most of these encounters with disrespectful behavior have been while doing the normal everyday activities of driving or shopping.  Cyber bullying is on the rise as well as hostile and disturbing comments on social media sites.  Anonymity has reduced responsibility.  We are sliding into a culture where nasty, rude, intimidating, and hateful behavior is seen as “normal.”  It is anything but “normal.”  This lack of civility, care and regard for others is destructive and damaging to the well-being of every citizen and especially the young who model their elders.


Returning to respectful behavior is good for society and good for your own well-being.  Being respectful, polite and having good manners creates harmonious relationships and connections. We all enjoy people that make us feel seen and heard.  When people are interested in your opinions and interests, you feel valued and accepted.  When people pay attention to making you comfortable and safe, and respect your personal space and possessions, you feel their care.  A person who offers generous doses of kindness and consideration is likable, attractive and more successful in life.

The Golden Rule of Respectful Behavior is treating other people with Dignity, Consideration and Loving Kindness, and to treat Yourself with the same Regard.


We can do our part to turn around the demise of civility by being an example of respect.  The small and seemingly inconsequential “niceties” make a difference. The Prime Question to ask yourself is: 
What affect is my Behavior having on the Experience of those around Me? 
If you are unsure of what is appropriate or acceptable behavior be aware of the reactions and responses of the people around you.  Watch their body and facial language for cues.  Are you being excluded in some way?  Are you invited back to social gatherings?  On the flip side, how do you feel about the behavior of the company you keep?  Do they act in ways that make you feel good or not?
The Basics of Common Courtesy, Respect and Good Manners:

The Good: 

  • Always use Please, Thank You and You’re Welcome.
  • Be friendly and helpful; Greet people with a smile.
  • Listen attentively with curiosity, be sincerely interested in others; be considerate of other’s opinions.
  • Be generous with praise and celebrate other’s successes and accomplishments.
  • Apologize when you have made a mistake.
  • Respect people’s personal space and belongings.
  • Be Kind and Considerate; treat people with dignity.
  • Do good deeds without needing anything in return.

The Bad:  None of these actions are endearing or will create harmony.  They push people away.

  • Ignoring when someone is talking to you; silencing, looking the other way, walking away, not making eye contact or rolling your eyes
  • Interrupting (because you want to make your point or you think you already know what they are going to say)
  • Not helping someone when you have the opportunity.
  • Lack of consideration for others disabilities and frailties.
  • Using personal property without asking.
  • Invading someone’s personal space or imposing on him or her.
  • Staring or pointing at someone.
  • Asking personal or inappropriate questions; prying.
  • Gossiping is mean.
  • Profanity (It shows a lack of respect for yourself as well as others.  Tame your tongue and increase your vocabulary)
  • Being consistently Late (It is disrespectful of other people’s time.)
  • Cutting in line or not allowing a person with 1 or 2 items at the grocery store go in front of you.
  • Promoting your own agenda; pushing your opinions, bragging, or only talking about yourself

The Ugly:  These behaviors move into the abusive category and are Boundary Violations.

  • Humiliating, embarrassing, ridiculing or shaming a person.
  • Harsh criticism, insults or demeaning others.
  • Infringing on the rights of others.
  • Dishonesty.
  • Touching without permission.
  • Blaming, manipulating, belligerence, sarcasm and hostility.
  • Exposing others to illness or physical injury.
  • Patronizing; treating someone as “Less than.”
  • Calling people names: stupid, idiot, asshole, bitch, weakling, etc.
  • Yelling and screaming.
  • Gaslighting: spinning information to make someone doubt their own perception
  • Dismissive & Condescending Remarks: What NOT to say
    • You are too sensitive, you’re overreacting
    • Not now, maybe later, don’t worry about it
    • Don’t be that way
    • Calm down, relax, chill, don’t panic
    • It doesn’t matter, get over it, there’s nothing to be done about it
    • What’s your point?
    • I hear you (repeatedly)…yeah, I heard that
    • Not this again…let’s move on….let it go
    • Who knows, who cares?
    • Get used to it

Cell Phones and Electronics
The Good:  Cell phones and computers allow ease and almost instant communication and access to information.  They connect us to our global community.

The Bad:  Looking at a screen or listening to a voice does not provide physical face-to-face connection.  It is rude to ignore the person sitting in front of you and focus your attention on your phone or computer.

  • No Texting, browsing or monitoring your cell phone or computer when you are at the dinner table or engaged in a conversation or an activity with another person.  Turn off or silence your cell phone at restaurants, theaters and events. 
  • Do Not Talk loudly on your Cell Phone in public.  Do you really want everyone to hear?
  • Walking with your Cell phone and ignoring everything around you.

The Ugly:

  • Texting while Driving is Dangerous!  Don’t do it.

The Good:  Good driving habits offer safety and happy outings.  By obeying these rules you avoid bad outcomes.

  • Use your turn signals.
  • When stopped behind a vehicle see their back tires touching the road.
  • Be courteous instead of competitive when driving.
  • Leave for your destination with time to spare.
  • Watch out for bad drivers…drive defensively.
  • Don’t drive when tired.
  • Follow driving rules:  When you see a yellow light it means caution.  Don’t speed up to go through it, stop when you can.
  • Wear your seat belt.

The Bad & The Ugly:  Absolutely Dangerous actions to Avoid

  • Texting while driving or other distractions.
  • Cutting people off.
  • Driving too fast (drive the speed limit in residential areas) Yeah, it’s not okay to go 5 miles over or more where children are playing and people are walking!
  • Driving slow in the passing lane (this is also not okay.)
  • Running red lights and not yielding the right of way.
  • Not stopping at crosswalks….Stopping at crosswalks Saves Lives.
  • Swerving in and out of traffic or other reckless driving.
  • Tailgating (following too close is an accident waiting to happen.)
  • Driving high…on alcohol or drugs.

Dining and Table Manners
The Good:  Dining with others is one of the most intimately important social moments in your life.  Having good table manners enhances relationship and is respectful.  People pay attention to table manners and form opinions about you.

  • Be sociable and converse at the table.  Being present with those you “break bread with” is an opportunity to strengthen bonds and connection; it is a time to share with one another.
  • Have gratitude for those that prepared the food and take pleasure in the food you eat; it increases endorphins creating a positive mood.  
  • Eat mindfully and slowly tasting every bite; it strengthens and builds the connecting networks in your brain.

The Bad:  Not following accepted dining protocols is inconsiderate and rude.

  • Do place your napkin in your lap and use it.
  • Do not begin to eat until everyone has been served.
  • No elbows on the table while you are eating…after the meal it is acceptable.
  • Do not fill up your plate with food; take moderate amounts.
  • When passed a dish, take one serving of food and make sure to leave enough for others.
  • Don’t leave the table during the meal without saying, “Excuse Me.”
  • Place your utensils together across your plate when you are finished with your meal.

The Ugly:
If you want to be invited back….Remember to Not:

  • Double dip your bread or chips into the shared sauce.  If you need more, use a clean spoon and place it on your plate.
  • Gobble your food down….do eat slowly.
  • Chew with your mouth open or speak with your mouth full.
  • Stuff your mouth full of food or take exceedingly large bites (it is gross to watch).
  • No Noisy eating, Slurping, burping, or licking your fingers.
  • Monopolize the conversation, talk loudly or over others; allow everyone a chance to talk.
  • Reach over others (ask to have something passed to you).
  • Take the last of anything without asking others.
  • Use a toothpick at the table (do this in private…no one wants to see the inside of your mouth).
  • Drink too much and become obnoxious.

Dorothy Wallis is a former intern at People House in private practice as an Individual and Couples Psychotherapist for over five years as well as an International Spiritual Teacher.  At the forefront of the consciousness movement for over thirty years, she is grounded in practices of meditation, family systems, relationships, and emotional growth.  Her work reflects efficacious modalities of alternative approaches to healing based upon the latest research in science, human energy fields, psychology, and spirituality.

She is a leader in the field of emotional consciousness and the connection to mind, body and spirit.  Her compassionate approach safely teaches you how to connect to your body, intuition and knowing to clear emotional wounds and trauma at the core.  The powerful Heartfulness protocol empowers your ability to join with your body’s innate capacity to heal through holistic Somatic, Sensory and Emotional awareness.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth