By: Scott Stein, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations
It’s been a few weeks since Thanksgiving when many of us think about all we have to be thankful for. And during the month of December, the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce is meeting with all of its members just to say thank you. Those two items and a personal observation that fewer people today seem to use the words “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” prompted me to think about civility.
What I found is that a lot of other people are thinking about the same thing, some even pondering…“Is civility dead?”
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines civility as civilized conduct; courtesy; politeness. Most probably just think of it as good manners.
Temple University professor Frank Farley says there have been a number of factors – the economy, the Internet among them – that have led to a decline in civility. Farley says the anonymity of the Internet is an important factor; as people let things all hang out (just take a look at some of the reader responses after a news story posted online). The economy also has many people frustrated about their own situation or how others are affected leading to more people willing to speak out forcefully.
Not everybody is just sitting by on this subject and wondering where things will lead. Tom Changnon, superintendent of the Stanislaus County School District in California, just recently launched a “Choose Civility” campaign.
Changnon told the Modesto Bee…“Quality life depends in great part on how community members treat each other. This initiative will promote the importance of civility in a world becoming increasingly less civil and encourage community members to choose positive and respectful behaviors in their personal and work lives.”
The newspaper also cites surveys that indicate that two-thirds of Americans believe that our society has become less civil, and seven out of 10 believe the problem has gotten worse in recent years.
So what can we do to be more civil? P.M. Forni, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of “Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct” offers a few suggestions…
• Lower your voice when it may bother others
• Welcome a new neighbor
• Respect those different than us
• Properly dispose of trash left by someone else
• Acknowledge mistakes
• Don’t participate in malicious gossip
• Don’t run red lights
• Disagree with poise
• Say “please” and “thank you”
And the list goes on.
What do you think? Is civility dying? Is the Midwest more civil than elsewhere?