The human race has superior intellect over every other living creature and our values guide our behaviour. They provide us with a personal code of conduct. Treating people with respect is a core value that should simply be a part of the fabric of society. Having respect for those around us is Civility. However, there is so much chaos in today’s world because of the absence of the same.
Civility includes treating people with dignity and respect, maintaining courtesy and politeness, and acting with regard to the feelings of others. Even when we are in disagreement with others, it is important to Disagree without Disrespect and give others every right that we claim for ourselves. It is absolutely essential for tolerant societies to maintain an environment that preserves mutual respect for one another.
Incivility may be hard to define, especially because what is unspeakably rude to one person might be normal banter to another. Current intensity of exposure to rudeness, lack of respect to one another, acts of vandalism, hooliganism, etc., has become a matter of growing concern for today’s and tomorrow’s children. Instances are prevalent all around us, on the roads, at the workplace, in public forums, in politics, on online social platforms, etc.
It is disheartening to find so many endless examples of the worst in human behaviour, with people saying and doing obscenely disrespectful things to one another. Verbal or physical attacks on others, cyber bullying, religious intolerance, discrimination, abuse of public spaces and property, are just some of the common acts of incivility in today’s society.
Incivility can take much more subtle forms too. It is often prompted by thoughtlessness rather than actual malice. Teasing people in ways that sting, making undermining or demeaning statements about someone, telling insulting and offensive jokes, constantly texting when in a meeting or in the company of others, are also acts of incivility. People who behave uncivilly often claim that their intentions were misunderstood or misconstrued by the target, stating that they did not “mean to be harmful.” In other cases, they may suggest that the target is simply hypersensitive.
Many offenders do not even recognise their behaviour as uncivil. Lackadaisical attitudes keep them comfortably oblivious to the fact that an act that one individual might simply brush off and forget, might cause deep psychological hurt on another. In extreme cases incivility has driven some to commit suicide, even though the retaliation has been at their own expense.
Acts of incivility can be quite contagious, having a ripple effect in the society as a whole. We can talk about incivility pretty much everywhere, but one of the most important aspects in our daily life is what happens at home and what happens at our workplace……the 2 places we spend most of our time.
Behaviours of incivility are often tolerated at home and can be easily spread by anyone in the family, from parents to siblings to children. It might include sarcasm, shouting at or abusing someone, or ignoring them altogether. Although it does not necessarily imply an intention to cause hurt, it can create a toxic family environment where self-worth is undermined and family ties damaged. Experiencing disrespect within the family can also create psychological distress for many. For some it can spill onto their performance at work although not everyone is similarly affected by family incivility.
Excellence at most workplaces is dependent on teams, and teams work best when all members are acknowledged and treated with respect. Respect between team members yields trust and is a key ingredient of great teams.
Incivility robs teams of their potential and can prove to be expensive for any organisation. Employees become less creative when they feel disrespected; half deliberately decrease their effort or lower the quality of their work, performance and commitment by the employees decline. Witnessing just a single unpleasant interaction, leads customers to generalise about other employees, the organisation, and even the brand.
Managers can use several strategies to keep their own behaviour in check and to foster civility among others. Leaders set the tone, so they need to be aware of their actions and of how they come across to others. One way to help create a culture of respect and bring out the best in employees is by expressing appreciation. Working with someone who is civil and treats you with respect, makes one feel empowered and encouraged to work at their best.
Act Now…Make a Difference:
Civility starts with each one of us. Begin consciously practising acts of civility in our day to day actions and words, whether at work, on the roads or at home. Lead by example impacting not only our children but all those we interact with.
It is critical to start early, in modelling and teaching our children the dogma of civility: having respect for others, showing empathy and using restraint. Childhood is the time when moral compasses are formed, and it’s much harder to change later on. The most important skills we can teach our children are how to respect, value, and support other children, especially those who are different from their lifestyle, cultural or religious background, social characteristics, or learning style. Children need to learn from us to be inclusive in their social relationships, not exclusive.
Talk to your children about why it is important to be kind instead of being rude, irrespective of the circumstances. Discuss why it is more important to admit when you are wrong rather than lying or cheating to get your way. Help them observe and recognise signs of emotions in other people. Encourage them to notice other kids who may be alone on the playground or at school and who might enjoy some company.
Teach children to respect surroundings and the property of others. Children look to parents’ behaviour to determine how they themselves should behave, so model civility in your interactions with people and set a good example.
We usually show a lot of concern for friends and family out of affection, empathy or with the knowledge that we have to interact with them. However, it is equally important to be civil with all who share our society with us, whether we know them personally or don’t know them at all.
“Incivility is contagious—often spreading by way of righteous indignation until even those without legitimate grievance have come down with symptoms and taken sides.” ― Diane Kalena