WOW Word-Of-theWeek #269: Civility

September 29, 2009 by  

Civility – polite or courteous behavior.

Did you happen to see the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday? How about President Obama’s health care address last week?  Or Serena William’s tirade at the U.S. Open?

Apparently we are experiencing a real shortage in civility! And experts say it is getting worse.
Frank Farley, a psychology professor at Temple University who studies trends in human behavior says, “The Internet, cable talk shows, reality TV and even the recession have reduced our collective inhibitions, ripping at the very fabric of civil discourse. There is very little doubt that we are expressing ourselves in much nastier ways.”

Clearly Uncivilized Sea Lions

Clearly Uncivilized Sea Lions

San Diego Union Tribune staff writer Jennifer Davies writes, “Outlandish cable TV hosts and reality-show stars prove that bad behavior is rewarded with increased notoriety and exposure. Simon Cowell of the top-rated ‘American Idol’ has elevated rudeness to an art form – a lucrative one at that.”

“We have created the age of extremism. Average doesn’t get attention,” says Farley. Fortunately for us there has been an overwhelming negative reaction to all this bad behavior. What do you think? Are Americans getting ruder?

This week focus on civility.  How can you be more polite and courteous? What examples are you setting for your staff and/or children? Can you be exhibit civility even if others around you are not?

Reader Responses

“Your sense of timing with this WOW! was right on!  Congrats! “– PC

“yes, it was a bad week for civility.  this whole generations seems to be self absorbed.
God, …I sound like an old ….” — Sandra

“Congratulations on your 5th anniversary!  I’ve enjoyed your Word-Of-the-Week and I occasionally pass them on to others.  You do good work.  I especially liked last week on civility.  Boy, are we ever in danger of losing it in this country. Thank goodness people like you are talking about it and in turn making people reflect on just how civil we are to one another.  Thank you for encouraging us to be thoughtful, introspective and reflective by sending out Word-Of-The-Week.”

“I have a feeling that our children are the best examples for us as to how to behave. Occasionally, our seven-year-old will tell me or my wife, “That was rude!” And you know, she is right. The biggest part of the problem in society is that people refuse to listen to one another. And the reason is that many of those on the extreme – whether right or left – believe that they are right no matter what the other person thinks or says. So how can we have a civilized discussion. I recall a time when the seniority system in the U.S. Congress was in place. The congressmen would have a spirited depate on the House or Senate floor and go out for drinks afterward. Still competitors but still friends outside of work. The Republican Revolution of 1994 ended the seniority system and comity at the same time. It seemed that grabbing power and holding onto it at all costs became the norm. This then resulted in what became known as the “politics of personal destruction.” It was not long after that we saw the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the House of Representatives, but his acquittal in the U.S. Senate. We still see the “Gotcha” politics in Washington today, but it is now becoming more marginalized to the fringes of both parties. Unfortunately, it is those who are the loudest who are seeming to get the most attention, whether their points of view are really valid or hold any water with the majority of Americans. And in the media (you mentioned Simon Cowell, who is a good example) it is the loudest who get the most attention because it means more people will turn on their televisions to see a disaster. But are we better off for it? Once people have driven past the accident, they are waiting for the next to occur. It is a sad commentary on our society today, but civility is lacking. I mentioned in past posts that there are a lot of young people who just don’t say thank you or acknowledge good deeds done for them. I have seen it in my own extended family. People just don’t say thank you. It seems, unfortunately, that it is just assumed or taken for granted. I know that I try to set an example, not only for my family, but for the people I work with in my day to day relationships. If people see how well it works for me, maybe they will take the hint. But it seems more and more, they are not. Great word, Susan. Take care. “Warrior” Joe Moran.”