5 ways to restore common decency in our society

Do you feel like people are arseholes? Not everyone, not every minute of the day, but you know – pretty often. You might get cut off in traffic, or a random stranger might take their bad day out on you. If you’re really lucky, you could score a junkie yelling obscenities at you in the street while everyone else walks past unnoticed.

When things like this happen, it can feel like no one cares about anyone but them. That we all have to fend for ourselves. That we are all alone and that we are all disconnected. It’s easy to point the finger at everyone else and say that we aren’t one of the arseholes, but that doesn’t really solve anything.

What we need to do is stand up and start taking action ourselves to make the world a friendlier place. We need to be the role models and set the standards so that others can see how it’s done. With this in mind, here are five simple ways YOU can restore some common decency in society.

1.       Acknowledge peoples’ existence

If people call you, return their calls. If they text or email you, respond. Even if you are really busy, just acknowledge that, yes, a person has tried to communicate with you, and that, yes, you will respond with more information when you have more time. In this instance, if you know the person well, feel free to use one of my favourite responses: ‘Busy’.

I have been trying to organise a wedding and it has really surprised me how many businesses don’t even bother getting back to you when you query them. Do they realise I want to give them money? It seems that not acknowledging peoples’ existence is getting more and more common as time goes on.

2.       Drivers’ wave

If someone lets you in to their lane in traffic, say thanks with a little wave. It takes no time or effort, but lets the kind person know that their gesture was appreciated. The less we acknowledge kind gestures, the less inclined people will be to keep doing them. Then it turns into this big negative spiral and society turns to shit until Arnold Schwarzenegger turns up from the future to save us all.

Along the same lines of the drivers’ wave, I would also suggest people do the old ‘speed camera warning with a flash of the headlights’ trick, but I’m not irresponsible like that. I’m just saying, if you did manage to do that on the odd occasion, there’s a good chance people would be grateful. That’s all.

3.       Respect peoples’ time

Everyone is super busy these days. We all have a million things to get done. If you say you are going to be somewhere at a certain time, be there. Sure, five or ten minutes late is fine but much more that that is getting rude.

I’ve been doing some work for someone lately who doesn’t even apologise if we don’t start work until an hour after we were scheduled to. That’s all time that I could be spending doing the things that I need to get done.

4.       Make sure your toilet deposits are flushed.

I know sometimes the toilets break and won’t flush properly, but I swear so many people don’t even try. How many times have you walked into a loo to find a mega-log staring up at you? Are those people proud? Is that why they leave it there?

And don’t even get me started on women who don’t bother disposing their sanitary items…Cleaners aren’t your mothers!

5.       Say ‘good morning’ to people as you pass them in the street.

Ah, that polite gesture of yesteryear. From a time when people cared about the wellbeing of their fellow humans…

It wasn’t even that long ago really. It was common practice when I was growing up. I don’t know what has changed, but I think we could all do each other a solid by starting it up again. It’s a modest thing we can do to let everyone know that we aren’t all arseholes.

What do you think everyone could start doing to restore common decency in society?

Written By

Mahdi is an advocate for nature, animals and people. She has poor fashion sense but a good sense of humour. She hopes that one day there will be ample female toilets in all venues. She is the author of ‘The Power of You: How to Positively Influence People, Places and the World’ and founder of Mahdi Earth and The Earth Healers’ Hub.


  • I so strongly agree with all of these points. I am actually bewildered at the companies not returning my enquiries when I’m trying to get various things like storage robes and venetian blinds – why don’t you want my money?? I’d also add clear your table at a food court where possible.

  • If you are renovating and it will disrupt your neighbours have the courtesy of explaining the process and understand that if you think people will not mind the mess, noise, parking issues and extra work your choices make for them – you are wrong. No one is entitled to renovate for extended periods.

  • I totally agree! I’m a big fan of smiling at people whenever you make eye contact. And not avoiding that eye contact but looking for opportunities to make that small connection. In the street, shopping centres. Public transport. No need o be weird about it, just a friendly, “we’re all in it together” type smile. 🙂
    Go team!!

    • I’ve started doing this recently Brigit and it usually goes well. Sometimes, I have to admit, I am not in the mood for it and find something else to look at. But I always feel like a heel if someone smiles or greets me in some way but I’m a bit slow and only respond after they’ve passed. Do I overthink this issue? 🙂

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