Why Civility Matters By Sara Hacala
With this handy tool kit, we can
help reverse a trend of bad behavior
Whatever happened to civility?” is an oft- heard lament, particularly among those of us over
50 who recognize civility’s increasing absence in a world
changing at warp speed. Technology has forever altered the
style, speed and reach of our
decidedly less personal communication. Escalating vulgarity,
lax standards, sensational media and polarized politics reign.
Society today is far different
than it was when we were young.
While rudeness is pervasive and
rising (one recent report conclud-
ed that bad behavior may be the
“new normal”), the societal and
financial costs of incivility are astronomical—impacting our homes
and relationships, schools, economy, health care and government.
Civility is more than polite courtesies. Derived from the Old French
and Latin term for “good citizen,” civility enables us to live respect-
fully in communities; it is the glue that binds our society. It can be the
difference between life and death—as, for example, when health care
professionals bully subordinates, cover mistakes and create mistrust.
It is an essential component of our hu-
man sustainability, enabling us not only
to survive but thrive.
Reversing the current course of incivility is a challenge for our times. Until a
rudeness vaccine is developed, we must
dig into our civility tool kit. There are
compelling reasons why we should. A life is not defined by a single
act, and few of us will ever achieve national acclaim or perform deeds
that change the course of history. However, there is “greatness” in
treating others with respect, compassion, kindness and generosity.
With this we can make a difference in the lives of many.
Here are five tools:
1. Regardless of your age, make a habit of practicing kindness, generosity and gratitude. Substantial research shows that people who
Changing the current
course of incivility is a
challenge for our times.
regularly engage in these acts
live longer, healthier and happier
lives. It’s never too late to start.
2. Nurture your social relationships, which, scientists say, have
the capacity to generate our
greatest happiness. Enrich your
connections by balancing Internet contact with phone calls and
face-to-face visits, which are more
personal forms of communication.
3. Establish meaningful dialogue
with medical providers, asserting
your right to respectful and compassionate treatment. As a patient,
you have the opportunity to evaluate hospital care; hospitals with
extensive negative evaluations
can lose Medicare subsidies.
4. Seize “teachable moments” with your grandchildren if you love
them but not their behavior. Child development experts say we’re
no longer teaching our kids manners—or respect and empathy for
others. By contrast, a major study reported that social skills are a
more accurate predictor of future success than test scores. So step
up your game when the grandchildren are in your house. Enlighten
your progeny about the importance of developing interpersonal skills
and relationships by engaging them in conversations without small
screens and buttons. That may be your enduring legacy.
5. Promote decency and decorum among elected officials. Hold them
accountable for behavior during the 2012 campaign and, more important, once they’re in office. Urge civil discourse and bipartisanship
to avoid gridlock. Your and your country’s livelihood are at stake.
Given our sheer numbers as older people, we can have an impact on
transformation. At the very least, we can set an example. It may take
a generation to create a positive cultural shift, but we have to start
somewhere. These are the seeds we can all plant. One at a time. ;
Sara Hacala is a certified etiquette and protocol consultant and author of Saving Civility: 52 Ways to Tame Rude, Crude and Attitude
for a Polite Planet (Skylight Paths Publishing). For more information, please visit www.savingcivility.com.