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In praise of - common courtesy.

IF you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all.

I've never completely agreed with the sentiment. Not every exchange between humans is nice or nasty; most fit in the middle, a simple passing on of or request for information. Some people would do well to remember that. Two incidents in one week left me lost for words.

I contacted the organiser of a 10-mile race with a request for an entry form. I applied for a place last year but later cancelled. It's not a crime to change your mind. Or so I thought.

The response to my request began: "I hope you aren't going to muck me around like you did last year." Perhaps he was having a bad day. Maybe my cancelling last year ruined the entire event. Can I send an apology to all the runners who felt short changed by my no-show? Did they fail to get a PB because I wasn't there to maintain the equilibrium? If that is the case I admonish you for your rudeness, Mr Organiser. If not, can I recommend you order the guidebook on human kindness? It's available from the Library of Good Manners.

Later that same week, I was due to meet a contact for coffee. However in Brigitte Jones "Wake up Britain' style I diaried it for the wrong day. I apologised and offered to meet at her convenience, confident she would accept the flaws of my human condition. But the apology was not sufficient and she blogged about her "experience with a reporter". Suffice to say her diatribe will not win me any prizes for professionalism. Now will it do much to enhance the public's perception of the press.

I've never been the victim of Twitter trolls, but can now empathise with their plight. Perhaps it's a long-overdue payback from the public, angered by our ability to columnise about whatever we see fit in print. Anyone can now Tweet or blog or Facebook unkindly as much as they like. My day was blighted by that experience but I'm growing a thicker skin, a necessary adaptation for the 21st century.

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