What is Civility?
Civility is a VALUE.
Civility is a CHOICE.
Civility is a COMMITMENT.
Becoming more Civil is a PROCESS.
Life would be so much easier if everyone had the same values—I would be so much happier if YOU would just be more like ME. What is wrong with YOU??
Truth is that we all have different values because we all have different life experiences. What is important to you may not be important to me. The larger the gap between our personal values, the harder it will make it for us to get along.
So how can we bridge the gap?
Identify your biases. Ugly as they may be, we all have them. Biases are learned reactions we have gathered along our life’s journey. Awareness is the first step to making a change. When you identify the problem, you can begin to understand how you adopted it. Only then can you explore alternative beliefs that will lead you to being more accepting.
Be aware of your emotional reactions. Emotions are important. They give us valuable information that we need to take appropriate action. Unfortunately, emotion can be the enemy of reason. Sometimes the action that needs to be taken is to take a time out to reevaluate the issue so you can choose the best response. When you are aware of your emotions, you can make a logical decision on what action you need to take, rather than reacting impulsively.
Be Present. Try to approach each situation with a fresh set of ears. Truly listen to what the other person is saying. Ask questions when you need additional clarification. Make THIS conversation the most important object of your attention.
Make eye contact. Watch for both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Listen without judging. This is the time to bring your self awareness to the forefront. Be aware of your values and biases that trigger your emotional response. Monitor your behavior in response to the triggers. Take a time out if you need to address your emotions with logic.
Focus! Focus! And Refocus! When you find yourself back in the grocery store, REFOCUS.
Address the ISSUE, not the PERSON. You are much more likely to find common ground if you express your opinion with facts rather character assassinations. Own it! Start with an “I” statement. “I believe…” “I don’t quite agree with that statement…”. Instead of, “I can’t believe you said that!” or “That’s ridiculous!”
Try as we may, there are times when there just isn’t enough building material in the world to BUILD THE BRIDGE.
The biggest obstacle to overcoming conflict is the need for one or both parties to control or be “right”. Regardless of how strongly you feel about something, you can’t force someone to see things your way. Nor do you have to give in to their opinion. Having good personal boundaries is important. When you have exhausted all other efforts, take the high ground: agree to disagree. A simple “OK, I know where you’re coming from.” is an acknowledgement that you have heard what they are saying without agreeing with what they have stated.
Adopting the value of CIVILITY is a choice each of us must make. It requires practice and a commitment to be a part of a process to support growth and prosperity for all.