A warm welcome to the inaugural issue of Psychology Quarterly! We have made every effort to bring to you a variety of psychological viewpoints and personal journeys and we hope you enjoy reading it.
We live in a polarized world where extremes seem to rule and those in the middle have become invisible. The world of social media brings out either the very best or the downright worst in people. Psychology research, not always on the side of political correctness, is one way for society to find lost balance and make a move to the center.
In recent years, we have seen a trend in social media where the concept of “self” has been idolized to such an extent, that the most recurring buzz-words or phrases for the past decade could easily be “do what makes you feel good”, “do what you are passionate about”, “self-motivation”, “self-esteem”, “value your self”, “self-validation”, etc. However, the older generations grew up on the opposite end of the spectrum where other people’s welfare was placed above their own. Society was structured in a manner that drove home this point. For example, my school motto was “Non-sibi sed omnibus” which means “not for one, but for all”. At home, at school, and in the bosom of society, the older generations received this very different message. It’s easy to forget the value of treating others with kindness and respect when the world around us seems more divided than ever. However, seemingly insignificant acts of kindness can have a profound effect on both the giver and the receiver.
How then can we learn to be more courteous? More kind? More tolerant? There is a voice that speaks of a better way. That voice is quiet, sounds old-fashioned, and does not seem to understand modern times. That voice takes us back to our roots, away from the constant onslaught of social media dictates. It is a voice that tells us we need to rebel against the rebellion. We rebel, not with activism and compulsion, but with genuine love and respect for our society. How do we do this?
It has been my observation that some young children in Sri Lanka are not being taught the basic social graces like being polite and respectful; Saying “please” and “thank you,” and lending a hand when someone is in need. Another aspect of courteous behavior is the ability and willingness to pay attention when other people are talking and show that we care about what they have to say. Particularly during times of conflict or disagreement, this can help to foster a more civil and fruitful exchange of ideas. Society cannot thrive on education alone. The focus should be on rebuilding family values which in turn influences the values of the society. Teaching children polite and intelligent discourse is a must. The appalling state of social media interactions could be a harbinger of the coming intolerant and anarchist culture.
None of us are compelled by law to be courteous and kind. But we improve ourselves by becoming aware of our interactions with others and purposefully treating them with kindness and consideration. By making such an effort, we not only improve the quality of life for ourselves and those around us, but we become more likable. Becoming likable has many benefits in all of life's domains.
Ultimately, culture is what we make it. We have the power to reject and walk away from polarizing opinions that divide us. Courtesy is the antidote to the toxicity of the culture that we ourselves have formed.