The month of May is International Civility Awareness Month. This was spearheaded by the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) in an effort to bring to light how uncivil acts mar the quality of all of our lives each and every day. Whether it’s schoolyard bullying, road rage, common rudeness or disrespect in the workplace, many of us have become desensitized to the uncivil behavior exhibited by us and those around us.
In The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility is Damaging Your Business and What To Do About It, researchers Christine Porath and Christine Pearson assess their study of the effects of incivility in the workplace in 2009. The results showed that widespread rudeness at the office increases employee stress levels and reduces work quality, productivity, loyalty and overall performance. They also noted that job stress accounts for a shocking $300 billion in losses in the United States.
What can each of us do to help reverse these trends in incivility? Our local communities have taken the first step — the cities of East Lansing and Lansing have officially proclaimed May as Civility Awareness Month.
How can we band together to create a positive “civility epidemic” in our community, one encounter at a time? The first step is considering the good of the whole, instead of only our individual needs. In Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, P.M. Forni lets readers know that the rules of civility have been around in various forms for quite a long time. This insightful and engaging read breaks down each “rule” into palpable and easy to implement actions. I highly recommend this book and believe it is a must-read for everyone. For the time being, I hope you will consider some of my suggestions of small things you can do at home, work and in the community to make a positive impact on our world.
Home is where the heart is, but it’s also where the dirty laundry, dirty dishes, bills, yard work and other obligations reside. We often come home mentally and physically tired and begrudgingly attend to things that should really matter in our lives. It’s ironic that the people and things we work the hardest for are often the very things that experience us at less than our best.
Unplug. I know, it sounds scary to me also. But try to have an unplugged day once a month. If you have a family, commit to spending the day together without the TV, computer or telephone. Play a board game, clean up the yard or take time to really talk to each other. These ordinary moments will be the memories that you all look back on with fondness. If you have time to yourself try reading a book, getting out and enjoying nature or assisting someone less fortunate. This down time will do you a world of good and you’ll be refreshed and ready to seize the day tomorrow.
Many of us are under stress at work for a multitude of reasons. There are certainly things that are beyond your control, but controlling the way you act, react and interact at work can help make it a better place for you and your coworkers.
Acknowledge others. This is rule number two in Dr. Forni’s book and one of the most important and simple things you can do. By saying good morning or hello to those you encounter in the workplace, you are letting them know that their existence matters. When you don’t take the time to make this simple overture you are implying that the opposite is true.
Do what’s right — always. When you operate using this principle, you demonstrate your personal integrity and belief in the good of the whole. Whether it’s accepting responsibility for something you’ve done or doing the right thing even if no one will ever know, your actions will positively influence the quality of your environment.
In Our Community
Many of us spend our days rushing. We rush the kids to school, rush ourselves to work, to meetings, to the grocery store — there just never seems to be enough time in the day. Oftentimes the only thing on our mind is our list of to-dos. Sometimes purposefully, other times without thinking, we trample on those around us to get our needs fulfilled.
Slow down. Try to do this literally and figuratively. Drive the speed limit — the actual time you save when you speed is negligible, especially in comparison to the risks to your safety and the safety of those around you. You can slow down your life too, by prioritizing and saying no to things that don’t make sense for you and your loved ones.
Lend a hand. It’s the small things that can make a big impact in our community. Letting another car in while stuck in traffic, rolling your neighbor’s garbage can up to her house for her on a rainy day, holding the elevator for someone as they approach — these are the things that make you feel good and encourage others to do the same.
Happy Civility Awareness Month. I’m confident that you will find a way to celebrate it in style.