I had learned about the civility project that would be started at Southern Door High School last fall at our DC Civility Project committee meeting. While I knew that I wanted to share this through the column, I decide to do so at the end of the school year. I recently sat down with Steve Bousley, Principal of Southern Door High School, to discuss the civility project. The Southern Door School System has prescribed to the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports(PBIS) for the elementary and middle school. According to DPI( Department of Public Instruction) this is “a systematic approach to proactive, school-wide behavior based on a Response to Intervention model” which are “programs and strategies for all students to increase academic performance, improve safety, decrease problem behavior and establish a positive school culture”. Common rules are Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Safe.
Steve told me that they wanted to provide a program to the senior high students that would reinforce these positive behaviors and expand their knowledge and skills that will enable them to meet their next experiences- college, career, community. It was decided that the Door County Project was their best tool. When approached by the district, several members of the steering committee were excited to collaborate.
From the start this was a “work in progress”. During the first year the students, faculty, and high school community would be introduced to the nine tools of civility. One tool a month would be explored during ELT( extending leaning time). Once a month Shirley Senarighi, Diane Slivka, and Gretchen Montee would gather around Shirley’s kitchen table and develop a format of instruction which included discussion/questions, simulation, and What does it sound like, look like, and feel like for a tool. This would be passed to Steve for review and then to the faculty to implement.
Throughout the school year one could see evidence of its beginning. Posters of the tools hanging on the walls are eye catching. When discussions of current events, the 2016 elections, world issues, and other controversial issues were held, now there was yet another angle to input-civility and its tools. Examining a tool is personal, one begins to thing about basic needs- safety, belonging, building relationships.
When the school year begins next fall, this program will continue and expand. Steve expects that these tools will be explored more in depth. While faculty is doing the facilitating at this point, he hopes that eventually it will be the students that will lead the implementation. He expects that it will take several years to see the full effects of this program. Lastly he is in discussion with another school district that is interested in the program.
What a great extension to the DC Civility Project efforts. First it allows the high school students to continue the practices that they have learned previously. We all know that if we do not practice, we can begin to forget. Secondly, as older students, they need further expansion of those tools and then practice. With our ever presence of seeing the world in its many uncivil actions it is so encouraging to know that in one school, students are given alternative. Lastly, civility will be impacted not just on the students, but the entire staff, the student’s families, and our community.
Thank you Southern Door School District and I look forward to hearing about your further progress.
Orlaine I. Gabert
We are in the midst of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is a time when family members try to all come together and enjoy the day and weekend together, reliving many happy times before and making new memories. Over the next few weeks there will be many celebrations for Hanukkab and Christmas. Lastly, we will begin the New Year. Our western hemisphere tradition as we begin the year is to make New Year’s Resolutions. By definition a resolution is a “formal expression of opinion or intention, a firmness of purpose, or make up one’s mind.” In order to make some new resolutions, we need to look at what were our old resolutions, what we did accomplish, and now what we want to do in the future.
The Door County Civility Project had a number of goals for 2014. First we wanted to educate the community about civil discourse through presentations, news articles, and our website. We have had many opportunities to talk to community groups and have had monthly articles in the local papers. The response has been very positive. People are interested and have found the information helpful.
Our second goal was to have individuals and organizations sign a pledge to use civil language in their discourse with others. This can be easily done by going on our website or filing out a pledge form given to you at one of our presentations or received from a member of the Door County Civility Project. To date we have 26 organizations and 296 individuals. Both are short of the goal of 50 and 1,000, respectively. As a presenter I know that there was very little time for individuals to sign a pledge. Consequently, there have been missed opportunities for those interested in signing the pledge to do so. Others have read the articles or heard about the project from someone, but did not know who to contact to sign a pledge or have not made time to do so.
The Door County Civility Project will be working on their resolutions or in this instance goals for the 2015 soon. I am sure we will want to further increase individuals and organizations signing the civility pledge. I am asking and encouraging you to include signing the pledge as one of your resolutions. We can say to ourselves that we believe that we do use civil language, but can admit that we do not always. We can say that we will do better, but is saying really enough. A pledge is really a resolution, “ to come to definite or earnest decision about.” You are making a commitment to use civil language to the best of your ability at all times. Each person’s pledge will increase the civility in first Door County, next Wisconsin, then the United States, and finally the world.
Please go on our website: http:www.doorcountycivilityproject.org or our Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to sign the Door County Civility Pledge. You will make a difference in how Door County citizens communicates with each other.
I wish you a joyous remainder of the holiday season and look forward to sharing additional civility understanding in 2015, one of my resolutions.
Orlaine I. Gabert
The first definition I read for respect was a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements with synonyms of esteem, regard, high opinion reverence, or honor. So what are these traits that merit respect? What is the level to which you must reach to gain respect? What kind of treatment should those who do not have these traits or have not reach the appropriate level be given? It seems a society of the haves and have nots.
A second article talked about what we had been taught as children about respect. We were to respect parents, teachers, and elders, school and traffic rules, family and cultural traditions, other people’s feelings and rights, our country’s flag and leaders, the truth, and people’s differing opinions. But this, too, left a lot of people out. All those born after us would always be younger. Secondly, besides the truth and differing opinions, what is that warrants respect by these various individuals or categories and who decides? Lastly, where does oneself fit in the scheme of respect? I guess those younger than us, will see us as elders, but that will never happen with someone older. Many of us will not be identified in one of those categories above. Certainly the word self-respect comes up enough.
I have been of the belief that everyone and everything needs to be treated with respect. We are all human and live on one earth with animals, plants and all other living creatures. On the urban dictionary, others have agreement with me. Here are some examples of what they believe about respect.
To show regard to another person with acknowledgement, politeness, and consideration.
It means valuing each other’s points of view.
It means accepting people as they are and not dissing them because they are different from you.
It means being kind always because being kind is not negotiable.
A value that once thrived but has nearly been eradicated in the name of free speech and expressing one’s self.
Learning to respect people’s efforts, abilities, opinions and quirks.
I would like to share an example of how this definition of respect works. For many years I co-facilitated a group of children, ages 6-12 who were affected by a parent’s alcohol or drug addiction. We had them attend 2 six week sessions. These were children who had experienced many incidents of humiliation. We provided a few simple rules of how we would all be treated in the group. We listened to what they said. We asked them questions. We shared in activities. We gave them praise. We were never critical, but tried to help them find some alternative ways to handle situations. Parents reported improved behavior while their child participated in group. I believe only one child did not finish the group because he was asked not to return. His uncontrolled violent behavior made it not safe for the other children. Our respect for each of those children made a difference. They were able to follow our example and treat each other respectfully, they were able to share some difficult feelings, and they were able to show respect to others outside the group context.
While there were many suggestions of how we can show respect, here are a few that I thought would be helpful.
Orlaine I. Gabert
Our review has reminded us how much a part of civility is allowing yourself to hear what another is saying, but how you act and speak is as important as you want the person to truly hear you. As such let us look at the last three tools.
7. Apologize- One might be asking why is this an important tool of civility. I would say that to apologize sets a precedence in all your communications. We all want to always look our best at all times. Consequently when we error in some way by nature we do something to somehow make it go away or at least be minimally noticed. This means we never directly acknowledge what we did or said or try to minimize it in some way. Now there is a lie between us and we both know it. The listener has no trust and begins to disengage from truly hearing what is being said. The speaker remains focused on trying to put oneself in a positive light and not the substance of what he wants to say. BUT a true apology first reminds both that we are human and we all mistakes. Once we accept that we need to sincerely apologize, it become easier for the speaker to apologize when it is again necessary. The listener has seen that the speaker can admit a fault and will be inclined to do likewise. Both can now stay in the intended conversation.
8. Give Constructive Criticism- Since we are fallible, there are going to be times we forget or let our emotions block us from using the civility tools. Other times we are dealing with others uncivil behavior. Consequently we do need this tool. When we say nothing, the other person may not recognize or are in a minimizing situation. Ultimately we are encouraging an ever increasing civil dialogue in our own world and also in this whole world we live. It is important that we take a risk to be change agent and find a constructive way to discuss this with another. Often we are lucky. There are many individuals who do directly ask for honest feedback and mean it. They are to wanting to communicate in civil manner.
Timing is crucial. There are times that you can see that the person is simply unable to hear you and providing criticism would only make the situation worse. Often you may not have the needed time to have this conversation. There may be others present and you want to consider the individual’s feeling. When the time is right, identify the issue, start by stating what you heard, suggest a solution, and remain positive and supportive.
Let’s go back to Tool 4-Don’t Gossip. Someone has begun to tell you some gossip. Politely ask the person if you might interrupt for a moment. Then you might say “ I am hearing you talk about some mistakes someone else is making. I do know that we all do mistakes. I want to continue to give respect to this person as an individual which will allow for their own apology. It would be preferable to me that we move to another topic.” You may find other words.
9. Take Responsibility-While the first eight tools are specifically focused on communicating, Tool 9 is the cement that holds civility communication together. Now you have the tools, but it takes one’s full intention, responsibility, to use those tools daily in every conversation to the best of one’s ability and to treat them with respect, honesty, and dignity. The Door County Civility Project is suggesting one way to help you to accept that responsibility is to sign the Door County Civility Pledge. By doing so you have made a written commitment but also public to honor your decision to be civil. You can sign up online and obtain a pledge form at the Door County Community Foundation Office.
As you use these tools each day civility will become your way of life and more likely in our community and the world.
Orlaine I. Gabert
I hope that as you reviewed the first three tools last month that you began to see a pattern. Each tool helps us to do different things. They are not only clearly strongly linked together, they also complement each other. Each one helps us to better be able to stay focused on maintaining in ourselves civil communication. You need to use all the tools at once.
4. Don’t Gossip- If we were to consider the intent of civility and the intent of gossip, we would find that they are odds. Civility’s goal is to have a positive communication with another person even when you do not agree on every issue. With gossip you want to tell another person some negative, uncomplimentary, unreliable, or dirt about someone that you both know. Your intent is to be hurtful to the person that you are talking about. More often than not you are not sure of all the facts and you do not care. You want to do harm to the person’s integrity. There is the flip side if Don’t Gossip. Often you are a listener. Remember from the listening tool that to listen is to accept what is being said is a belief of the person in good faith. This is not the case as the intent is harm. You can act in several ways to end this line of conversation- remain silent and show your lack of interest in the topic, say ,you are unable to talk at this time, provide a positive comment about the person being discussed, change the subject or say that you are uncomfortable and want this subject dropped.
5. Show Respect- It is easy to show someone else respect when they have done something well, have been given an honor, expressed opinions that you share. On the other hand it is not so easy when they have beaten you at something, gotten something that you had wanted, or are expressing strongly an opinion that is opposite your own. Your mind set is to get into a defensive mood and do Whatever to diffuse their words. Sadly there are lots of ways to do that. You can use putdowns and name calling- stupid, dumb, idiot, racial and religious slurs, ugly. You are attempting to distract from what is being said to try to make others discount what the person is saying as well as to also begin to think of that person in a disrespectful way. Laughing at what is being said works. You can start to ridicule some of the person’s beliefs. Some shout at the person thinking noise can render is words lost. Others may slap, hit or punch. Ultimately some have gone so far is to do physical harm. Rather are mind set needs to be inclusive of respect across the board. All living things, our earth, our galaxy, space need our respect. We will treat all words with dignity. What each of us says that we believe is an opinion and not a fact. As such we can each allow ourselves to consider what is said.
6. Be Agreeable- Using the first five tools you have been able to hear clearly and openly everything that has been said, you have acknowledged that you fully understand the words or you have asked the questions you needed, and you have behaved respectfully. Now it is your turn. You can direct your thinking to what your opinions have been on the subject. Your first step is to consider where you agree. We humans like to have others agree with us. We feel we are a part of a greater whole; and people we care about are in agreement. We can be more open when we see that base of agreement, our own inclusiveness is expanded and we are more prepared to talk civilly about the parts of what is said that we may not fully or not agree all. Your beginning response is to share the aspects of the opinion that you are on common ground, agreement. Probably there will be some back and forth discussions on these agreements. Then when this is settled you ask that you would like to share some other thoughts. Now it is the speaker’s turn to pay attention, listen, and be inclusive and respectful. Please remember that none of your language is defensive or disrespectful. It really is inclusive. You want to describe another idea or way of looking. There are no slams on what has been said.
I will address the last three tools next month.
Orlaine I. Gabert
As we begin the new year of 2016, I am starting my third year of writing this civility column. During the first year I provided you with the Nine Tools of Civil Behavior that our Civility Project had identified. This last year I gave you some illustrations of civil actions and additional attitudes that will help to enhance your civility. But as a trained educator and a current bridge teacher, I know that we not only need to practice what we have learned, we also have to review what we have learned. Therefore I want to start the year by reviewing these tools. To do this I want to remind you the arena for civil behavior is in all aspects of our communications with others.
We will review the next three tools of civility next month.
Orlaine I. Gabert
Over the past year and a half I have given you nine tools of civil behavior, four cornerstones, and examples of civility. I have tried to focus on the positive outcome of civility. If everyone used the tools and practiced the cornerstone behavior, we would all be living in a civil world. You and I know that this is not the case. Every day we encounter uncivil behavior. When you see more and more of that behavior, it is natural to hesitate about trying to maintain civil behavior in yourself. When a cornerstone of a building begins to collapse, the structure can begin to tilt. This will put pressure on the others. If they, too, weaken, down it all comes. Consequently, it is just as important for us to be able to identify uncivil behavior in order to strengthen our own civil behaviors.
Let’s begin with our courteous cornerstone and understand and recognize discourteous behavior. We are a very mobile society and all of us spend a good deal of time on the road. Courtesy acknowledges that we are sharing this space with many and must act to keep us all save and moving. Here are some examples of discourteous behavior on our roads. Either going faster than the speed limit or slower. Bicyclists riding two, three, four across the car lane, rather than single file in the bike lane. Tailgating the driver in front of you when you feel that the car is going too slow. Honking your horn multiple times when you need to only do so once. Crossing in the middle of the street rather than doing so only at the crosswalk. Driving through a red light. Not using your signal or not using it in an appropriate time when you are going to turn. Parking your car too far into the driving lane in areas where there is no designated parking. Talking or texting on your cell phone when you are driving. At a stop sign or light not staying in your lane, but using them both.
There are many occasions when we experience discourtesy in our communications with others. Often someone will not let the person finish their thoughts, but rather will jump in and state their own. At other times the person will begin to display behaviors that show that they are not listening. They will check their cell phones for messages, begin to write a personal note, look through their purse for something, begin a conversation with another person, close their eyes, make gestures of disapproval, anger, or disgust, get up and walk out, or make a derogatory comment.
There are lots of other spaces that we share where discourtesy occurs. Friends are walking down a sidewalk and someone comes the other way, rather than making space, the other person is backed off. You are in a waiting line and someone jumps in front of you. You share an apartment with someone and rules have been agreed. One does not follow them by always leaving a mess, not doing the dishes, using the other’s belonging without permission, keeping music up too loud, having friends over at late hours, or not paying their portion of the bills. At school or work, you are often asked to work in teams. Often there is one team member who does not do what was agreed to or is always late. At many sporting events, some fans that are in front of you will stay standing, blocking your view, others will carry on a loud conversation with a friend through the entire game, seat areas can be small, but some will move into your small space or keep bumping you in the back, others will yell mean things to their opponents or the referees, and some spend more time getting out of their seat, going somewhere, and back again repeatedly.
Another are of discourteousness is by business personnel. So often you enter a plane and you have two stewards who are there to greet you but are engaged in a personal conversation. Clerks at retail stores are often on the phone on none business manners and let you wait while they finish with their call. Others are reading and appear to ignore that you are there. Still others are eating a meal at the check out desk.
Reminding ourselves of these discourteous behaviors can help us to remember how important that cornerstone of courtesy is. When we are treated in that respectful manner, we have a good feeling about ourselves and about others. We are in a civil mood and want to spread that to others. We can do so by being courteous to those that are being rude as well as we can begin to find some ways to let those other know how their discourteous behavior is affecting communication.
Orlaine I. Gabert
Over the next nine months you will be introduced to the nine principles of civility that were selected by the Door County Civility Project based on “Choosing Civility” by P.M. Forni. The nine are included in the Door County Civility Pledge that the Project is asking individuals, businesses, governments, organizations, boards, and the community of Door County to sign and then to follow.
The first principle is PAY ATTENTION. We have all heard this statement often enough beginning in childhood through adulthood from our parents, teachers, family members, bosses, and friends. Generally we believe that is exactly what we are doing and attentively. Yet so often when we are in a conversation with another person, there are a multitude of distraction that take away our focus on what the other person is saying. You are cooking, the phone rings, and you talk with that person while you continue to prepare the meal. Your family is watching TV and your son asks you a question. While you try to answer, your eyes and ears still are keeping up with the program. Computers are so much a part of work and family life. When someone starts a conversation with you while you are working on the computer, you try to do both. Think of all the times that someone is talking to you and you are trying to figure out a problem at work, you are just ready to leave work and are making a mental list of what stops you will need to make on the way home, you are driving in heavy traffic which needs all your concentration, you missed lunch and now your stomach is also talking to you, you are dealing with any number of emotional issues. With our current technology of the cell phone, you are on alert for your ring to answer that phone immediately discarding out attention to the current conversation. You even get distracted by the beauty of our county.
The fact is that quite a bit of our conversations are ones where we are not paying attention. This lack of paying attention does not go unnoticed and has disastrous effects. First let us consider the person who is expecting you to be paying attention. All of us have had that experience with an array of emotions- hurt, angry, uncared for, dismissed, unimportant, unworthy, and sad. These emotions direct our responses with not only the person who is not paying attention, but in all our interactions. We can retreat within ourselves and not share ideas and thoughts, become inattentive ourselves, or be hostile and attacking. Secondly, we lose important information because we have not gotten either an accurate or full understanding of what the person has been saying. Our misinformation leads us both down different planes and future negative emotions for both. True conversation has broken down.
As you can see Pay Attention is an important principle of civility. Someone can begin a conversation with you at any time. More often than not you are not in a mindset to be in a conversation, but someone has started one with you. You need to pause to address your inner self attention- what am I doing and thinking right now, what are my emotions, how am I going to proceed. Next you need to turn your outward attention to that person. It is important to look at the person, notice what you can about this person’s feelings. This puts you in the present moment which allows you to learn what the person says and how one says it. Now you are ready to continue the conversation with this person with the second principle-Listen.
Step one- Pay Attention-Be aware of others and sensitive to the immediate context and actions. Attention is an act of kindness.
Orlaine I. Gabert
At the end of November we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving, a time when families try to gather as many family and friends together to share a meal and be mindful of the blessings in our lives and acknowledge our thankfulness for them. While it is not the only time that most of us express our thankfulness, it is a pleasant reminder that we need to do so and more often. By definition thankful is “gratitude, a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive” or “glad that something has happened or not happened”.
No doubt thankfulness is certainly another aspect of civility. As children we were taught manners. On the top of the list was when someone did anything for us, we were to respond with a “Thank You”. Does it seem silly or meaningless after a while? Someone opens a door for you, another let you go in first, your bridge partner places their cards on the table, a guest helps you clean up, you are complimented on an accomplishment. I say emphatically NO.
Thankfulness creates a constant and continual atmosphere for civility. When one person acts and then the other responds in a grateful manner, positive emotions erupt between both. In sports we see the affects immediately. One team member assists another in a tackle. The play ends and they can jump up and down, hug each other, and have big grins on the faces. They are back on the line ready to work for the next play. A bridge partner complements the play of the hand. Confidence is built in both players. While I can give you many more examples, I ask that you think of some of your own.
Sadly, I have seen in many sporting events when a mistake is made, the player is yelled at, belittled, humiliated, and blamed in front of his peers. This player becomes isolated, team members seem to feel that they have to stay away. Now how ready is the team when that member returns to the field. Probably the player feels not quite as much a part of the team and the team members are untrusting and will try to compensate. I would expect not a good performance from them all.
On the other hand I have seen many coaches have thankful ways to deal with a misplay and players coming up and encouraging. Both feel the thankfulness. The erroring player feels that others understand humanness and the team knows that when they make a mistake, the team will provide support. The player and the team are ready together. A civil environment reigns.
Many conversations that we have are friendly, happy, and enjoyable with general agreement. Others are in situations where decisions need to be made and there are differing points of view. If we give a thank you to the person for expressing an opinion on the subject, would we get that same feeling of cooperation as with a sport’s team. Everyone present will speak their mind and together the best decision is made. The path is paved for any future decisions that need to be made. A thank you is a powerful action of civility.
I want to thank the entire Door County Civility Project and all our residents for their continued efforts to insure that Door County is working to always be civil.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and give a thank you whenever you can.
Orlaine I. Gabert
I think most of us would rate ourselves as good listeners, but we would have to use an asterisk (*) that with the big IF- we were truly interested in what was being said. Yes, we are social beings; yes, we want to be liked and linked to others; yes, we know that good communication leads to good relationships. But most of the time all we are really doing is hearing, which is the physical act of sensing sounds.
Many of you as children played a game called telephone at a party or a learning tool in a listening class. The participants stand in a line, the first person whispers a message in the ear of the person next to them and asks that person to pass the message to next person. Down the line the message goes and truthfully where it stops no one knows. More often than not the message the last person in the line tells the entire room is very different from the original. No one had listened, they heard sounds and made some of their own interpretation. We remember 25-50% of what we hear. TO LISTEN is the ability to understand the world and other people. We listen to obtain information, to understand, to learn, and for enjoyment.
Obviously, we all need to work on improving our listening skills. A first step is our frame of reference. Our own well-being is our primary concern and is what our ear is attuned to. To listen we need to step away from ourselves, focus on the person who is speaking, and stay with that person until they are done speaking. It is crucial that we are able to hear what is important to that person. We need to understand what it is like for that person. We do this not just by hearing their words, but observing the nonverbal cues given. There may be pauses and even silence to which we need to be comfortable in allowing them and not feeling that we have to jump in and speak.
Our bodies can help us to further listen by letting the person know that we are truly with that person. We can lean in a little closer to the person. We need to make eye contact, but not continual. The best recommended time is seven to ten seconds periodically. Nodding our heads, saying “I see” or “Yes” will convey that we are understanding what is being said. We need to have facial expressions that indicate that we are interested and with the person. Lastly, it is best that we not fidget or slough which can be perceived as being bored and uninterested. All these behaviors will encourage the person to continue to speak and help us to fully understand.
Only when the person has finished is it the time for us to speak. Interrupting is rude as well as it puts us back into ourselves rather than focusing on that person. Now we are no longer listening, this may cause the person to stop speaking, and we have lost an opportunity to understand. We can ask questions to clarify or to further help us to comprehend. This is a good time to paraphrase what we have heard to further let the speaker know that you are understanding what has been said and give them the opportunity to further clarify if it is needed.
Lastly, we need to respond appropriately which means without judgment or critically. We can have an open and honest response and still be polite.
There are many quotes about listening. One I like is: The word Listen contains the same number of letters as in the word Silent.
Orlaine I. Gabert
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