Suppose you scrub your ethical skin until it shines, but inside there is no music, what then?
Kabir (15c Indian mystic and poet)
Behaviour in this context refers to a manner of conducting ourselves in an interaction with others. The main topics of this area are external and internal regulators of our behaviour, and also authenticity and spontaneity that facilitate its congruence.
Regulators of behaviour
There are two major ways of regulating behaviour: external (conventions) and internal (consideration).
Conventions are culturally defined customs and norms such as shaking hands, nodding or bowing when you meet somebody; asking for (‘can I have…’) rather than demanding (‘give me…’); thanking those who do something for you, and so on. Conventions are the external regulator because they are usually induced by a group or society – we learn about social norms from others. Besides showing regard to each other, such norms also ensure that all involved can maintain the desired distance and can have some control over the situation (as they increase predictability). Besides, familiarity with conventions can make spontaneity easier, as it helps to assess to what extent and when they can be safely transgressed (every shared framework has some degree of flexibility). Conventions though do not guarantee genuine respect, may be restrictive and a barrier to closeness. Let’s take politeness, which is closely related to conventions. It is a congenial way of interaction that has the purpose of making everybody involved feel safe and comfortable. Politeness, however, can sometimes be used as a cover or even a ‘weapon’ (think about how polite managers become when they intend to sack somebody). It can also become cliché, servility, even a front for inequality. To avoid this, of course, you do not need to stop being polite. Politeness only needs to be moderated (yes, there is such thing as too much politeness), which is why we also need internal regulation (or consideration).