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
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