Civility. Will It Face Extinction Like the Dodo?

Merriam-Webster defines civility as polite, reasonable and respectful behavior. Similarly, Abraham Lincoln famously noted that, "a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gal (vinegar)."

Unfortunately, civility seems to be following the same fate as the famed Dodo bird...extinction.

Dodo BirdWithin the last week or so, three airline flights had to be diverted and make unscheduled landings due to passengers fighting over leg room. Yes, fighting over the person in front of them reclining their seat. One online travel website even interviewed several psychologists, and they came up with five reasons why these people may have reacted the way they did.

Honestly, I don't need five reasons on why these people acted like two-year olds throwing tantrums. Sadly, I see this becoming more common place, whether it be dropping my kids off at school, attending their soccer games, or even our family's most recent visit to Worlds of Fun amusement park.

A growing number of people in society believe that civility is old school, not necessary, or does not apply to them. They want what they want, when they want it and how they want it, and if they don't get it, then they'll act any darn way they please and don't care what you think of their behavior.

Look, no one is perfect, and people have a bad day, I can understand that! However, it seems to me that TV and social media seem to glorify the rude and juvenile behavior of celebrities like Justin Bieber, Alec Baldwin, and the Kardashians, just to name a few. Sadly, many individuals mimic what they see and/or believe, if so and so is famous and can act that way, then why can't I.

While they may feel cool or almighty in their eyes, it can have lasting, if not permanent, repercussions. First, there could be civil and/or criminal penalties for their actions. Second, in today's camera centric world, their actions could end up on TV or all over the Internet, resulting in endless humiliation or even job loss. No employer wants to see an associate of theirs acting like an idiot. Third, they never know whom they may offend and how that person may react. For every rude, in-your-face individual, there is always someone else out there who is bigger, meaner and crazier. Thus, who knows what harm they could endure by crossing the wrong person. Finally, such behavior is just plain ugly and an energy drain for all involved. It's like pouring vinegar instead of syrup on your pancakes...yuck!

Sandra and I try to use instances of incivility as teachable moments for our kids. Otherwise, they may think our silence is an implicit acceptance of what transpired. Believe me, we all find ourselves in situations where we are tested with our own inadequacies to "keep it together."  I continue to be challenged in this area myself. This is especially the case when someone cuts me off in traffic or a contractor has missed a major deadline or done shoddy work. Whatever the case, it is not easy to stop short of a little incivility myself. Yes, it may feel good to let them have it, but all it does is raise the tension level, lower myself to their level or possibly even burn bridges.

Now I am not advocating being a pushover nor standing up for what is right. However, by taking a firm, yet civil tone with them, you may get much further ahead.

As a matter of fact, in the past month or so, my wife and I've had several instances of when we felt slighted and could have reacted quite rudely. Nevertheless, in these instances, we told the other party what went wrong, that we were disappointed and asked for them to make it right. We were civil, yet resolute in how we addressed them. Surprisingly, in each case, the other party apologized and did what they could to correct the issue. Not only did we leave on good terms, but would use their services again because of how they handled the issue.

Yes, I know this won't always be the case, but it avoids bringing a lot of drama, emotion and negativity into our lives and those around us.  Also, by doing this all parties involved are able to rationally come up with solutions that may never have been recognized during an emotional exchange. And, I don't have to regret what I said to whom, and if I'll run into them in public. Maybe instead of KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid), we should change it to Keep it Civil Sir! By doing so we leave the situation in a good mood and so do those around us. Everyone wins in this scenario!


“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

                  Thomas Edison

"A million dollars ain't what it used to be. In 1984, a million bucks would have felt like $2.4 million in today's dollars."

                  Tim Maurer, June 18, 2014

On the lighter side

“I never let school interfere with my education."     

                  Mark Twain


Tony Moeller, CPA

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