Choose Civility

In my neck of the woods of Maryland, in 2006, a movement was taken afoot that began within our public library system to try to “mandate” civility. Through the use of car magnets, signs and further reaching into schools and government with policies within its county government, “choose civility” initiative was taken even further.  The movement started with a book by Johns Hopkins professor P.M. Forni  “Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct”

Dr. Forni’s makes an interesting case, however, based on his research for his Dr. Forni sees many costs to a society that can’t figure out how it wants its member to treat each other. Businesses suffer from rude sales people. Stress is increased everywhere. Health costs go up. (Studies show that intensive care units with a reputation for being “rude” have a higher mortality rate than non-rude ICUs.)

Said Dr. Forni: “My message is very easily put in a nutshell: In order to have a long life, a serene, a happy, healthy life, we cannot do it alone…. We need social support. But in order to gain and maintain social support we need social skills and good manners.” *

My own view is that civility cannot be mandated, rather, change comes from culture influence. The car magnets that I reference have become quite a humorous joke among drivers.  While the effort is noble intentions, culture change takes each of us to change our habits within.

Businesses suffer greatly due to lacking of civility in the workplace. Now, I’m not suggesting  I believe leaders should start each day with a rousing rendition of “Kumbaya” at every staff meeting.  Small changes make big impacts. If we want to bring civility back to our organization and society, we need to walk our example. “Please” and “Thank You” are timeless, powerful words for everyone.  Unplug from your computer and go out to the big bad world to see real people. For some leaders, that means leave your office or cube, not just send text, emails to lead, talk to your team face to face, even in the next room.  Organizations that put an emphasis on creating cultures that are civil have employees who pay it forward to their clients. It is win win for the bottom line as well. Leaders need to engage cultures where the norm is to treat others with respect, dignity and value. We need to look at the way we speak, act with each others and evaluate how these interactions are impacting our employees. And in turn, how that interaction is perceived by our customers.

Civility is not a weakness; it takes great strength and courage.  And in these times we live, it is needed now more than ever. I invite you to join the conversation tonight on Twitter at 7pmET as #bealeader will take up the topic of “Choosing Civility”

Jennifer Olney
Over the course of my career, I have been sought after by numerous organizations to bring my talents in the arenas of sales, marketing and business development. As the Founder and Director of Business BEALEADER, I bring my experience to the table to expand the knowledge base for those seeking to find their own leader within. In 2011, I created BEALEADER to be a platform for individuals to share their expertise and leadership to make others better by being a resource of business, career and marketing solutions for those who are just starting out or maybe have a “few” years under their belt and need keep their skills fresh. In addition to the BEALEADER platform, I have developed the business units BEALEADER Business Services, which provides marketing, business development and human resource management services and BEALEADER Executive Coaching Services, which provides one on one and group coaching services to executives and individuals. These business units expand our ability and brand to make others better as we reach out to our audience with these unique product offerings. In 2014, I was named to the Inc.com list of Top 101 Leadership Speakers and I have written for several publications such as Yahoo! Small Business, Business 2 Community and others. I have also co-hosted several podcasts and in 2015 will be hosting the BEALEADER podcast for our audience as well.
Jennifer Olney
Jennifer Olney
Jennifer Olney

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  • It amazes me that good old common sense and manners seem to have, in many cases, gone the way of the dinosaur. But I do agree: bumper stickers and fridge/car magnets are not enough. Civility, and things like integrity, work ethic, honesty and the like are a “speed of the leader, speed of the game” issue. If, as parents, business owners…heck, people!…don’t show, through our actions and words the very qualities we want to see in others, it’s pretty clear that what we desire to be shown, will not be shown. We need to be exemplars, role models and leaders in all we say and do. Cheers! Kaarina P.S. Drats…I’ll be missing yet another #bealeader. Somehow Thursday evenings always seem to be chock full for me. Wishing you a wonderful conversation tonight:)

  • August 9, 2012

    Jennifer Olney

    Thanks, Kaarina. Yes, Civility is more than a bumper sticker. It is a way of life that should be shown in examples in character and modeled in behavior. We all need to get back to common sense in our interactions. So many are quick to turn on the hate rather than to turn to a kind word in our society. It takes just as much effort to be kind than it does to use words and actions in negative tones. I hope that we can move the conversation forward tonight at #bealeader and instill a sense of values that gives food for thought for others to give their behavior habits a change within. I know you will be with us in spirit. Thank you so your support, you have been such a wonderful friend. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • I treasure the connection we have, and how lovely of you to say that I’ll be with you in spirit…indeed I will! I look forward to a Thursday that isn’t already otherwise occupied, so I can join in. No guarantees, but perhaps I can dip in and out, if not tonight, then sometime soon. I look forward to it. Cheers! Kaarina

  • August 9, 2012

    Jennifer Olney

    No worries. Thank you, Kaarina. I too, treasure it. Cheers.

  • August 10, 2012

    Redge

    I understood that a moral conscience and values were instilled in us at a very young age followed by subsequent years of growth and maturity. To a greater degree the fabric of family and society has met with increased socio-economic pressures and gives cause for many to “lose trust” in the system.

    Respect is earned on a foundation of trust. Too many authorities, including those in government, have eroded the trust we have placed in them. Companies in kind have left many to fend for themselves in the wake of an ever present recession.

    I contend that civility is tested when trust is breached. There are numerous examples in history where lives have been lost to defend the rights, freedoms, beliefs, and moral values that define our culture / society today.

    While we can “agree to disagree”, perhaps it is not always that simple. Does doing so give cause to allow our core social values and identity to be lost. At what point do we set aside our moral compass to become indifferent to values that are in sharp contrast to our own.

    I am reminded that “to stand for nothing is to fall for anything” and “a house divided will surely fall”. In all of our trials and tribulations, I do agree that civility is a choice where patience is indeed a virtue.

    Great post Jen and thanks for a very lively discussion in the #bealeader chat.

  • August 10, 2012

    Jennifer Olney

    Excellent, Redge. Many do lose trust in the system. I will agree that our society has met with increased pressured and that has eroded civility at its core. There are many pressures that have led to this issue of lack of civility. One issue that I raised last night is use of the internet – and being able to spout off opinions to faceless individuals has given rise to uncivil tones within our society in human contact. We have taken our virtual interactions and lost the ability to be kind in person with others. We have perhaps forgotten our manners to a degree with some of the younger generation who are so accustomed to being about to text, email and interact on Facebook, Twitter that they do not have the same behavior in face to face contacts. I believe you are who you are no matter the arena. We need to bring back examples of our civility, manners to every aspect of our lives. If we are civil online, that is who we are offline.

    Thank you for your comments and for your input last night. By far one of the best #bealeader chats to date. Cheers!