One of the basic things I was taught as a little child was Civility towards others. That is not to say I have always been able to control my mouth. Once in a while I have been known to express my disappointment in another person by letting loose a less than civil tirade. HOWEVER, I think everyone following my Mother’s advice to her young son would improve our country: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.” Pretty simple idea, isn’t it?
Keeping the dialog open
Civility is a requirement for informed, informative dialogue. If I make a statement regarding a viewpoint, hoping to learn another’s viewpoint, the dialogue ends when the response begins with a word like “Hater.” At this point it is clear this will not be a two way, well intentioned exchange of viewpoints. The other person in this conversation has indicated that my viewpoint has no value, and they have no clear opinion. A meaningful discussion of issues cannot proceed beyond this point. In fact, the use of derogatory terms switches the discourse from an exchange of ideas to a matter of character assassination.
Can you imagine Ben Franklin, during the crafting of our Declaration of Independence, telling George Washington “Shut up you country bumpkin?” I mean, what interest would Mr. Washington have in bringing forth his viewpoints about freedom in this atmosphere? Civility seems to have taken a back seat in issues of great national importance.
Passion in our viewpoints
Strongly held beliefs are the right of every person. Right, wrong, informed or misinformed, there are simply some things we hold dearly in our hearts. Fantastic! However life is an unfolding process. What we know to be true today does not necessarily stand the test of time. A change of viewpoint (or at the very least an examination of that viewpoint) is important to our basic liberties.
All is not lost
Although civility does not seem to be a national priority today, we can bring it back. As with all change this begins with one person. Demand of yourself to engage only in civil exchanges, and accept nothing less from those around you. Imagine how much we can learn from each other.
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