The Courage to be Courteousby Juan Sepúlveda When I was a young boy, I remember how my father seemed to be very effective at communicating with people, even when the topic was not pleasant. When he encountered someone who tried to take advantage of him or when someone was being unfair to someone else, he had the ability to diffuse the situation without having to resort to violence. However, that doesn’t mean that his words were weak, he was able to express himself courageously without compromising courtesy. Today, I have two children of my own and I want to be able to impart in them the knowledge that I derived from my father’s courage and courtesy. I want to be able to clearly articulate my desires without being aggressive. I want to set an example for these children like my father did before me. When difficult situations arise, I want to be strong enough to face them and take decisive action. Through my example, I want them to learn that a gentleman doesn’t cower away from a problem but instead tries to find an effective solution. That a true gentleman can remain calm in the face of confrontation.
Like the Spanish idiom says “Lo cortés no quita lo valiente” or “Courtesy doesn’t supersede Courage"I always admired my father’s ability to speak frankly and respectfully to others, without coming across as weak. He effectively taught me -mainly through his actions- that one can be courageous and courteous simultaneously. I clearly remember him using this Spanish phrase “Lo cortés no quita lo valiente” or “Courtesy doesn’t supersede Courage”. In other words, you don’t have to sacrifice your chivalry in order to be brave. This powerful phrase showed me that one can take a stance against injustice, without having to resort to less civilized means of confrontation. When one is faced with a difficult or uncomfortable situation, one can take firm action while still being a gentleman. In English, there is a related idiom that says “don’t confuse my kindness with weakness”. I personally don’t like this phrase as much, because it seems to carry an aggressive tone. However, there is one aspect of this phrase that I find useful. When I hear this expression, it gives me the impression that the person using it was not effective enough in his original communication. Thereby giving a false impression of weakness, when instead, his communication should have been clear and firm enough to form a different impression.
“Don’t confuse my kindness with weakness”A gentleman should choose his words carefully to deliver his message effectively. A gentleman doesn’t perceive politeness as weakness. On the contrary, a true gentleman is able to be firm and clear with his communication while remaining a pleasant person with whom to interact. Courage and courtesy are not mutually exclusive. The next time you need to have an uncomfortable conversation with someone who is trying to take advantage of you or is being unfair, I encourage you to have the fortitude to express yourself courteously. When communicating with others, be courageous in selecting the words that are going to deliver your message effectively. When prudent, adorn your dialog with politeness and establish a precedent of elegance in your communications. Remember, It’s not weak to be polite, it’s the courageous thing to do.