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Respect vs. courtesy and good manners

From: Carl

Dear Jessica, horse sense is the best. Thank you for giving it to all of us free. I am having an argument with my mom that I hope you can solve. There are two trainers at the barn where my horse lives. One is my trainer and she is really good with horses, she doesn't use a lot of special bits or funky gadgets and she doesn't hit horses or students. The other trainer is a real jerk. He is mean to the horses and the students and a lot of his students have stopped working with him and they want to work with my trainer instead.

Okay, now it turns out this guy is going to leave in the summer and go to some other barn which is good for us and bad for that other barn! And now he is acting all nice to everybody. So what I want to know is this. I don't even want to talk to this guy because he is a jerk, so when he says "Hi Carl" or "Good morning" I just pretend I don't hear him. My mom was out at the barn the other day and when we got home she said I have to be nice to the jerk because "everybody has to coexist" and "everybody deserves respect." I don't like to fight with my mom but I'm sorry I just don't believe that this guy deserves any respect at all. So what do you say, do I have to be nice to him? If you answer this I'm going to get my mom to read the answer. Thank you. Carl

Hi Carl! I'm glad you're enjoying HORSE-SENSE. I sympathize with your feelings. It's interesting how this subject seems to pop up at least once a year. ;-) Here's my personal "take" on this kind of situation: I agree with you about respect. Respect is something that has to be EARNED, people can't just expect it from you. But what we're talking about here isn't RESPECT, it's COURTESY and MANNERS, and nobody has to earn those. You don't have to offer respect to anyone who hasn't earned it, Carl, and I agree with you that some people don't deserve any. But courtesy and good manners are different -- you must offer these to everyone, all the time.

You offer courtesy to another person just because he or she shares a planet with you. You don't have to make a decision, evaluate the other person, analyze his or her personal or professional worth -- if that person exists, that person deserves your good manners and courtesy. Full stop. It will actually make your life easier, not harder, if you make a habit of being courteous to everyone. When this man says "Good morning Carl" you can say "Good morning." You don't have to stop and chat, and you aren't validating his training methods by being polite to him. The only thing you are validating is yourself -- your greeting does NOT mean "I respect you and like you", it means "I am a young man with good manners." ;-)

You're going to encounter situations like this again and again -- at boarding and training barns, at shows, as well as in school and on the job. You might as well use this particular situation as a way to get into the habit of showing courtesy to everyone you meet. It's a very good habit for a lifetime.

I haven't met either of these people, but I'll bet that YOUR trainer says "Good morning" to the other trainer... ;-)


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