By Linda Heath, Laramie County Commissioner
Recently while sorting “stuff” I have collected, I came across several articles related to the topic of civility. Why is so much attention being directed towards this topic? I would appear I am not the only one who has noticed a lack of civility in the world today. Before delving into the articles, I looked up the definition of “civility”; “formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech.”
There are three elements of civility – respect, relations with strangers and self-regulation. Civility is behavior in public which demonstrates respect for other and which entails curtailing one’s own immediate self-interests when appropriate.
What is the difference between respect and civility? Researcher, Lars Andersson defines civility as behaviors that help to preserve the norms for mutual respect in the workplace (our daily lives); civility reflects the concerns for others.
He continues “respect is defined as a feeling of deep admiration for someone, or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements; or due regard for feeling, wishes, rights or traditions of others. You show respect by being polite and kind.
It is said there are three topics one should never discuss in polite conversation, politics, religion, and sex. Why would that be? Because each one is more emotionally based than fact-based topics.
In a respectful relationship one must recognize that people hold beliefs they have a strong emotional attachment to and that you are highly unlikely to sway their opinion by using facts. Have you ever heard or even used the phrase” we will just have to agree to disagree?”
We must all become more self-aware of why we hold the opinions we do. Being aware of our own biases is okay. In respectful conversation honesty and humility go a long way to encourage others to lower their protective walls. Tensions are thus defeated. Instead of a heated confrontation, genuine discussions can take place.
How many times have you known someone to strike out at others, or perhaps you have done this yourself? It happens because of internal emotional pain.
We respond in this manner because we are looking for an outlet for our pain. When we hurt, we often respond by yelling, which isn’t the mark of someone leading their best life. What does this all amount to?
Emotional based beliefs and intense pain are quite often typed out in the privacy of our homes in anonymous responses. Would we make the same comments to the same individual or group in a face-to-face conversation?
Civility and respect mean prioritizing relationships over politics. Use your conversation to find common ground, not to highlight your differences. We may all find we have more in common with each other than we have differences.
That common ground will bring us closer to others, increase respect, thus establishing a genuine connection instead of creating even further division.
If I toss a starfish back into the ocean, I made a difference to that single starfish. Now think if we all threw a starfish back into the ocean.
We have made a big difference to several starfish. Political flames burn within all of us. How we handle those flames, our intense emotional beliefs, is entirely up to us. We are responsible for how we talk and react to each other. We must find a way to be humble and genuinely empathetic towards each other.
To heal the blindness of our nation, we must take a hard look in our mirror, examining the log in our own eyes. Are we practicing civility and respectfulness as defined by Lars Andersson?
We must practice effective methods of persuasion. Benjamin Franklin said,” I wish well-meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive assuming manner, if we are to win others over to our way of thinking.
Over-confidence reduces our scope of influence, which defeats every purpose we have for which the ability to speak has been given us, whether for the giving or receiving of information, pleasure, or wit.”
Consider the news media. Do we trust them? Multiple poll results suggest the media and Congress are both suffering from very low approval ratings. If all we are interested in running our mouths to show off our own importance, not in persuading others through civility and respect, we are no different than the media or many in public office.
If your goal is to only prove your own self- importance and knowledge, then you must enter every discussion with an argumentative mindset and pound your views into the heads of others, consider how you will be received.
If your mission is to persuade and present the truth in hopes your audience will take heed, then speak with civility, humility, and respect.