Potentially Misunderstanding the Power of Courtesy
This morning, being a leisurely Sunday morning, a BBC News online article caught my attention; ‘A Point of View: The Underrated Power of Courtesy’. I appreciated the author’s intelligent questioning and reflexive approach to her exploration of how courtesy and discourtesy show up in our society, how we respond to them, choose to accept them or even not notice them when all around us. The piece certainly got me thinking and reflecting.
As you may know from previous posts, the emergent and developing field of mBraining draws from cutting edge neuroscience and also ancient wisdom traditions to demonstrate how we have multiple brains (scientists define a brain as a complex adaptive neural structure), each with their own specialist competencies. Broadly, our Heart serves us best in expressing emotions, experiencing our values and how we relate and connect to others. Our Head’s prime functions are cognitive perception, thinking and making meaning. Our Gut brain (the earliest to form in embryological terms) exists primarily to mobilise us to action, to decide what is part of me (that is both metaphorically and literally) at core identity level and to keep us safe.
In mBraining, we differentiate between when one of our intelligences is doing its own prime function effectively or not and also when any of them is attempting to do another’s ‘job’, which is inappropriate and can lead to a lack of congruence, alignment, or effectiveness. Just imagine a brain surgeon trying to substitute for an orchestral conductor; she is clearly extremely intelligent and capable, but is competent in a totally different field, for a different purpose. So, whilst reading this article, I started ruminating upon which brain courtesy comes from and if we may misunderstand its power by seeking it in another place.
I love language and often go back to a dictionary to catalyse such explorations and so, was delighted to find that the dictionary definition for courtesy is two-fold; 1) polite behaviour and 2) a willingness and generosity in providing something needed. Behaviour is a form of action, mobilisation and is therefore derived from the gut brain and both the emphasis that it is polite behaviour and the second clause of the definition focus on the contribution from the heart brain. Politeness is defined by our values – what is deemed to be important, right and wrong – and values live in our heart. Notice next time someone you’re listening to refers to something dear to them…where does their hand go?…most often and naturally to their chest / heart area. Then, the willingness and generosity are also driven by our heart’s intelligence and leadership development has identified the multitude of benefits of developing our Emotional Intelligence in recent years. mBraining acknowledges the role of the electromagnetic field generated by the heart in building and maintaining rapport, called entrainment, which scientifically explains why we feel drawn to certain people (or otherwise) because we just have a feeling.
Reading the article, I noticed that whilst I agreed logically with almost all of the content, something wasn’t sitting well for me and I have learned that’s often a sign for me to reflect further and to check in with my different intelligences to learn more and for wiser decision making. Then it occurred to me that society seems to use courtesy as a theoretical concept, a principle … a function of the logical, rational head brain. In other words, we may be trying to get our inner brain surgeon to conduct an emotive and moving symphony – it doesn’t compute, because acting courteously is how we do what we do according to what we value and feel. In the article, the writer talks about losing a dear friend who she remembers as the epitome of courteous; “when (Gill) met you, he assumed you were worth defending and respecting and cheering on. He took that risk.” Heart and gut – acting courageously upon what is truly held to be important. The (grammatically-incorrect) verb of courtesy-ing, therefore, arises from the highest expressions of our heart (Compassion) and gut (Courage) resonating in unison and yes, our head is of course needed to provide the Creativity and finesse of which words or vehicle to best use in each situation, but we misunderstand the power of courtesy if we do not bring it from our heart and gut.
So, I am feeling a call to action this morning, to seek out opportunities to act (gut) upon compassion (heart) in order to be more courteous. Courtesy may not yet be as fashionable as it once was, but perhaps we deeply feel it is time to bring about a heartfelt resurgence!
If you are intrigued by how mBraining can offer wiser decision-making in your leadership and life, how you will benefit from the congruence of all your intelligences working in alignment and what more influence you can build; please email firstname.lastname@example.org or pick up the phone 07790885086 to find out more about our mBIT (multiple Brain Integration Techniques) Coach Certification and other training programmes, our products or coaching. We look forward to having a conversation with you.