Commentary: Spread the Word – Civility Always

In choosing to communicate civilly, we are acting for ourselves, but we are also setting an example because those with whom we interact will be observing civility. This is just a start: we can do a lot more to move civility forward as well.
Most of us have experienced being treated uncivilly or have witnessed others being treated uncivilly. Through social media, on television, and in a vast variety of entertainment and social interactions, we often see examples of incivility. The plain truth is that people will act as they see others act. When we stand alone, our example may not be seen. Consequently, we need to take the next step: We need to encourage communicating in a civil manner in every one of our interactions.

There are many ways in which we can do this. First and foremost, when we hear civil language, we must acknowledge it to those around us. Here are just a few examples of speaking up for civility.

When various opinions are circulating among staff members and one person summarizes the points that all seem to agree on, you could say, “Finding agreement is one of the tools of civility that will help us to reach our goal.” When watching a scene on TV that depicts someone who is obviously listening intently to another, you could say to your family, “It’s so great to see one person listening to another.” If the person sitting next to you at a sporting event does not boo a referee’s call – as so many people do when they don’t like a call – you could say that you’re pleased to see civil behavior exhibited by those who are showing respect to the referee.

Because civility is not only about verbal communication, but also behaviors and gestures, there are many other ways in which we can spread the word. Courtesy, a respectful or considerate act, excellent manners and always saying “Please” and “Thank you” are some of these behaviors.

You could open a door for someone. If you and another person start to speak at the same time, you could let the other person go first. Let someone in line ahead of you when leaving a parking lot.

A second behavior is kindness, or a gentle, considerate nature. Perhaps kindness is like the one of Mary Poppins’ statements: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

When we see people in distress, our offer to help can ease their pain. When we see people carrying armloads of packages and probably wondering how they’re going to open a door, we can open the door for them. A few words of support, taking a casserole to family that has lost a loved one, helping your host clear the dishes after a meal, or offering to shovel the drive while your friend has a broken arm are just a few acts of kindness that will make all parties feel more positive.

Each day on the Today Show, the Morning Boost segment highlights an act of kindness, and I’ve seen other news shows do the same thing. You can tell your friends about these kind acts because hearing about kindness can encourage them to act when they see someone in need.

Humor, or the ability to be amused, is a third behavior that facilitates civility and kindness because laughter lightens our load. I’m part of a group of friends who play cards, and we’re always laughing with each other while we’re playing. One person regularly shares a joke that she gets from a friend; we tease each other kindly; and we laugh at ourselves when we make a mistake. Others hear our laughter and want to join in because laughter helps each of us deal with some of the hardships of life.

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