One of the things that I find really dismaying as a civility consultant is when people fail to say “excuse me” or “sorry” when they have done something wrong, such as bumping into someone on the street. The other day a friend was drinking a glass of red wine at a bar when a man rudely knocked into her, causing the wine to spill onto the floor and down her hands. He didn’t so much as look up, let alone apologize or offer to buy her a new drink.
Another friend recently returned from Paris and was stunned by how often strangers would bump into her and not say “pardon.” Mind you, Paris isn’t known for being the friendliest city in the world, but one shouldn’t be treated like cattle. My friend pointed out that before the trip she’d made a point of learning how to say “sorry” or “excuse me” in French, but the only time she heard “pardon” was from another American woman who had accidentally jostled her on the Metro.
Failing to even say “excuse me” when you bump into someone makes you seem rude, and, worse, like a bully. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a rush or didn’t see the person. It takes one second to issue a quick mea culpa and be on your way. Being civil means being aware of your surroundings—including the other human beings around you—and not treating it like your personal playground. Be considerate!