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  • Writer's pictureAmy Hervey

Courtesy Can Be Dangerous


Most of us are raised from a young age to show courtesy in our interactions with others. We are even more courteous with people who have authority or power (your boss, a police officer, the bank president, etc.).


Bad actors can take advantage of our courtesy by leveraging social expectations. Following are a few examples:

  • Knock at the door = door is opened

  • Ask for directions = information is shared

  • Ask for assistance = assistance is given

  • Appear in distress = help is offered

99 percent of the time, these courteous actions are appreciated and go without repercussion. However, it only takes one unguarded moment for things to go terribly wrong. We must be observant and situationally aware to ensure our safety. Let's look at the list again, with some food for thought from a safety/awareness perspective:

  • Someone knocks at the door

    • Is this a friend or family member, a familiar face, or a stranger? Are they alone? Is it easily apparent why they're there? Do I actually need to open the door, or can we just have a conversation (e.g. leave the package outside, sign the form for me, that's not my dog, etc.)? Am I expecting a delivery?

  • Someone asks for directions

    • Do I know this person? Do they have a phone or map? Are other people present who could offer assistance? Why are they asking me?

  • Someone asks for assistance

    • Do I know this person? Are other people present who could help? Can I give the help requested safely (without lifting anything too heavy, getting inside a vehicle, isolating myself, etc.)?

  • Someone appears to be in distress

    • Do I know this person? Should I call 911? Are others present who could assist? Is the person injured or frightened, and if so, why?

I am 100 percent in favor of showing courtesy and helping others. However, context is everything...it is imperative that we don't hit "Mute" on our intuition or rationalize feelings of fear or dread just because of social expectations.


Stay safe!



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