9 Ways to Help Restore Civility in Today’s World

9 Ways to Help Restore Civility in Today’s World

I cannot believe that everyone was shouting in the meeting. No one heard anything and nothing got resolved.


My colleague stopped talking to her cousin because of the person she voted for.

The recent outbreaks of uncivil behavior in the political arena have impacted our everyday experiences, as the comments above testify. But it's time for people to fight back, politely of course, and assert that being uncivil to one another is not the way we want public figures to behave. Nor is it the way we should behave ourselves.

After the terrible events of 9/11 we came together and helped one another at a time of national tragedy.  We saw or heard of acts of incredible kindness, often between strangers.  And you know what?  We liked it! 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to mirror the impolite actions of others. 

There are ways for people to express their differences without resorting to bad behavior. If you want things to change, the change starts with you. Let me stress that: You are the change agent.  

Use these 9 tips to encourage polite behavior in the workplace and your world.

1. Don’t attack back.


Remember that someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. Though it may feel good to respond, “Well, what do you know, you idiot?” if somebody says something to offend you, it’s not going to build your credibility or accomplish anything. 

2. Use courteous behavior.


It’s hard to be nasty to people who are nice to you.  Keep “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in your vocabulary.  Greet others when you see them. And respond to the greetings of others. If someone says “hello” to you, you must say “hello” back. It is not optional!

3. Avoid inflammatory words.


Using harsh words such as “stupid,” “ignorant,” and “fool” only inflames a situation, and this approach is unlikely to lead to a positive resolution. Cursing at people is just mean, and reflects poorly on the one doing the cursing.

4. Disagree agreeably.


If you have difficulty with someone, talk to the person. Listen to what he or she has to say. You can evaluate an idea without attacking the person who is promoting it. Saying, “I see it differently, and here’s why…” is a lot more productive than screaming at people or calling them names.

5. Acknowledge your mistakes.


Saying to someone, “You’re right. I shouldn’t have said that or done that,” goes a long way in maintaining good relationships.

6. Share, wait your turn, and be gracious toward others.


Help other people when you can. Don’t interrupt. And be considerate when sharing space with others. This includes cleaning up after your meeting and making sure that you return the items you borrowed.

7. Be cautious with humor.


Humor can be an effective communication tool, but it also may cause you to fail miserably, especially in tense or difficult situations. What some people believe is funny may hurt or put down other people, and this invites conflict. 

8. Stop complaining.


If you don’t like something, don’t complain about it to others – do something. Get involved. Join organizations. Politely object. (Additional information on communicating effectively and politely can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)

9. Walk away. 


And if you don’t want to do any of the above, you can always avoid hostile or impolite interactions by simply walking away.

Barbara Pachter
Personal Development
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Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 10 books, including The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How ... Click for full bio

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week (March 20 - 24)

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IRIS Founder and Producer of Perspective—a personal look at the industry, and notables who share what they’ve learned, regretted, won, lost and what continues to ... Click for full bio