Updated: Oct 3, 2021
By: Dr. Lisa M. Coffey
To understand the concept of incivility, one must first understand civility. Civility is more than being polite. Civility is a profound self-awareness that displays respect for others. Civility requires hard work and a commitment to remain positive and respectful even with those we engage in fierce disagreements or competition. Civility requires listening and viewing healthy disputes or competition as a part of the learning process (Fritz, 2013). Civility is patience, grace, and strength. (Arnett and Arneson, 2010). Good ethics and civility require more than written rules and standards. Civility requires good character traits that develop over a lifetime of practice. Sometimes the best lessons are the ones we learn from our own mistakes.
Incivility in Action
Developing civility is a lifetime process and begins at an early age. Think before speaking, choose respectful words for the listener, respect the situation, and choose the language that does not inflame the problem. Respecting each other using non-discriminatory and clean language (Fritz, 2013) is paramount. The rise of social media and instant communication allows us to speak and interact before thinking. We have to slow down and not rush to immediate responses.
Insensitive behaviors dwell among us through trash-talking at sporting events, cyberbullying, political advertisements, and social media expressions, to name a few. Civility is an endangered species. Do we care that much about the feelings of winning that our ethic of care becomes distorted? How can we invite civility into the places where incivility usually dwells? In a speech, President Barack Obama once said, “Make sure that we are talking in a way that heals. Not in a way that wounds'' (Schulz, 2011). With the integration of the internet, Twitter, and social media into our everyday lives, civility is harder to maintain. Hurtful words spread like wildfire and are weapons of mass destruction.
To integrate an ethic of care philosophy into a leadership regimen, the leader must exemplify behaviors that demonstrate care and compassion, have an open dialogue about caring and engage in conversations that evaluate and provide feedback for learning. Leaders often mold the behavior of others; therefore, leaders need to set a positive example. It is essential to practice caring and allow others to practice caring so they too can become caring individuals or leaders (Arnett and Arneson, 1999).
Inappropriate words and actions can be very harmful to others and ourselves. Civility requires a conscious choice to be polite, mind our manners, think before speaking, and empathize with others. Reflect on a time when you displayed incivility. What could you have done differently?
Arnett and Arneson (2010 ) Civility in a cynical age : community, hope, and interpersonal relationships, NY.
Fritz, J.H. (2017). Incivility/Civility. In The International Encyclopedia of Organizational Communication (eds C.R. Scott, J.R. Barker, T. Kuhn, J. Keyton, P.K. Turner and L.K. Lewis). https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118955567.wbieoc106
Schulz, C. (2011, January 14). President Obama's and Sarah Palin's Responses to the Tragedy in Tucson. Retrieved from Gridlock: http://dukegridlock.blogspot.com/2011/01/obamapalin-responses-to-tragedy-in.html