The Power of Civility

We have all recently been “treated” to a prime example of a lack of civility. One didn’t even need to watch the Oscars to see the dust-up of an actor slapping a comedian on national TV because of something the comedian said. That moment was broadcast numerous times on various outlets since. The actor’s actions demonstrated the disempowerment of being uncivil and a lack of emotional intelligence. Many people believe that being uncivil gives them some power, a one-upmanship, and it sounds like, “I showed him!” Perhaps that is what the actor who slapped the comedian was thinking as he walked away. The power of civility would have been a better choice.

Civility is a power skill, and it is part of emotional intelligence and resiliency. Positively managing one’s emotions involves self-awareness, self-management, impulse control, and personal responsibility. Being civil towards others shows that you have command of yourself and your actions. It also shows that you can discern the correct response in situations and not give into overly emotional reactions. These are highly desirable traits in leaders, employees, and significant others and utilize personal power.

Here’s the Interesting News

It is nearly impossible to escape the consequences of a lack of civility. HR will typically take the necessary disciplinary steps if it happens in the workplace, including termination. In a relationship, irreparable damage can occur. And the public display at the Oscars has brought condemnation and disciplinary proceedings against the actor. There are also internal consequences such as regret or self-recrimination for conscientious people who recognize when they act out, such as on social media.

Humans are emotional beings, AND it can be challenging to manage emotions at times, particularly when people are stressed and overwhelmed. The most recent APA Harris Poll regarding stress in America showed incredibly highest stress levels. According to the survey, people’s current anxiety is related to inflation, money issues, and the war in Ukraine. The respondents rated these issues as significant sources of stress (80% or higher), more than any issue in the survey’s 15-year history. If you are a leader of a team or organization, it is vital to recognize the impact of those stress levels.

It is also essential for individuals to recognize their stress levels. For instance, knowing how stress influences them, and the steps they can take to reduce their stress. We have seen the negative influence of social media, reality television, and biased media on behavior standards in our society. Behavior standards have dropped to new lows, while permissibility for inappropriate behavior has spiked. Add historic levels of stress, and it looks like a toxic mess. The good news is that we can change that with our behavior by practicing the power of civility regardless of stress levels.

Moving Forward

If you were one of the people cheering the actor’s actions of slapping the comedian, it is time to do a gut check. Ask yourself why you celebrate that behavior and how that mindset impacts your relationships at work, at home, and your frame of mind. It may also be an excellent time to read Rules of Civility by Richard Brookhiser.

If you were dismayed by the actor’s actions, you have some self-awareness about appropriate behavior. It is also a good time to reflect on your opportunities to be more civil, gracious, tactful, and courteous to others, including your friends and family. I want to ask that of the woman who flipped me off this morning while refusing to let me merge onto the highway, despite having a wide-open lane next to her.

You can also think of someone you admire for how they handle themselves; try observing their communication style, how well they listen, and how they manage adversity. Work on implementing the characteristics that stand out to you. And if you need more help, reach out to us for some additional support. You can become a model of civility, and it is a worthwhile skill to develop.