So why are we so rude to each other?
I have been avoiding watching the news. It appears to me that we are spending far too much time engrossed in discussions that reduce our community-mindedness and personal accountabilities.
Instead, we spend a great deal of time attacking individuals for their beliefs and/or lineage. Even the traffic reporter spends far too much time lecturing folks on how to drive under weather conditions. Do we really need to be preached to every morning to turn on our headlights in the dark or slow down in the rain?
So, I started asking myself what it is that has me so irritated. What stops me from simply ignoring all this rhetoric? When did we become so addicted to righteously attacking individuals, insisting everyone agree with minute, singular points of view?
And is it any wonder that many folks won’t run for office when we attack political representatives so ruthlessly?
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Habitual lateness, rude language, electronic intrusions, work jerks, and divisiveness on social media are all affecting our mental health and our bottom line. Even when we are not directly involved in the conflict but simply bear witness to them, such hostile environments undermine our cognitive abilities. Maybe this is why the traffic announcer feels I need a lecture and cannot be trusted to make good decisions for myself.
I don’t think disagreeing is the problem; I think the problem is that human beings have learned to be most disagreeable when they disagree. Somewhere along the way, we decided we needed to inform others just how seriously wrong or mistaken they are when they disagree with our point of view.
No matter what you do or where you live, your attitude determines the quality of your relationships – not to mention just about everything else in your life. The good news is that attitudes are yours to select. And, if you are free to choose, why not choose a useful attitude – one rich in civility?
For some, civility is the essential glue that holds society together. It refers to social interactions in which participants maintain respect for and demonstrate respectful behaviour toward one another, even though they might see things differently.
Civility forges the acceptance and connection that we all want and need. Incivility makes us feel small and discarded, while civility raises us up and inoculates our hearts with kindness. It has also been proven to be an essential part of staying healthy.
So when did we discard the notion that civility matters – from politics to storefronts?
In his book Choosing Civility, P.M. Forni, co-founder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, wrote, “A crucial measure of our success in life is the way we treat one another every day of our lives. When we lessen the burden of living for those around us, we are doing well; when we add to the misery of the world, we are not.”
Truthfully, there are no expendable encounters between people (on or offline). Each interaction, large or small, has the potential to engage, encourage and enrich those involved.
I believe we can breathe life or death into others through our chosen words. Every day, we have an opportunity to be kind, considerate, helpful and authentic. Not because we must but because we choose not to spread negativity like a virus.
What if we stopped making so many issues about us versus them? What if we chose to show up with sincerity and objectivity and to be non-judgmental? What if we decided to put our best selves forward as a role model for others to follow?
What if we all took this oath – Do No Harm! Would we receive better communications, attract stronger leaders and make space for honest and helpful conversations?
Maybe when that happens, I will start watching the news again.
Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.
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