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Uncivil Disobedience

Photo by Linda Wilson on Unsplash

If you’re going to be rebellious, then rebel against destructive behavior

Civility is becoming an increasingly important topic in today’s society. National Public Radio has focused many recent reports about it and this is my third, consecutive article on the subject. Interestingly enough, the whole topic sprang from a previous article about freedom of speech. It doesn’t take much imagination to deduce how fighting for your voice alone can quickly turn into a nasty fight with others.

While discussing this article with a friend, she sent me a link to a TEDX talk presented by Christine Porath, an Associate Professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University whose research outlined the benefits of being civil as well as the disadvantages and consequences of incivility. It was gratifying to know that my own opinions and conclusions were not only validated by her detailed study but there were additional, negative outcomes I didn’t deduce.

One of the most thrilling points was the erroneous notion that people will perceive incivility – loud, rude, and garish demeanor – as some sort of power or strength of leadership. Her research showed that not only was it unwelcomed but it drastically reduced productivity in a working environment. Even more revealing was, “The number one reason tied to executive failure was an insensitive, abrasive, or bullying style.” .

I wonder, though, if most people question whether or not they have any influence or effect on this highly polluting and divisive style of rhetoric which is quickly consuming our society. Most of us never have an opportunity to be a well-known leader or for that matter, an opportunity to speak in front of a large crowd, so will any effort make even the slightest difference? Life is busy enough without taking on the additional burden of changing society.

Truthfully, there is no one more important in this fight than you! It’s time we all make a choice to rebel against incivility and begin to make a difference – one individual at a time.

To begin, understand this is a choice and a personal goal. You are choosing to be a stronger person and intent on making a better future. It will take commitment and effort; if there are times we may fall short, view those as a motivation to do better and work harder when the next opportunity arrives.

Perhaps the most important contribution we all can make is refusing and rejecting this style of interaction. Speak out against those who think they can bully and demean people. Let them know it has no place in your conversation. We all can be an example and you’ll never know whom you’ll inspire to make these same decisions.

Often this hostile approach to conversation appears entertaining or comical. The urge to laugh along with the perpetrator without any regard to person being preyed upon, is an easy trap to fall in. Unfortunately, this only serves as recognition and approval; enabling this disparaging and destructive behavior to continue.

Individually, each of us can decide to counter incivility wherever we face it. We don’t need to wait for someone to “lead” us to this decision. The more this uncivil approach declines in everyday interactions, the quicker it will fade from society and into obscurity. As confirmed by many studies, a civil society will lead to a more productive and happier lifestyle for all of us.

How will you fight incivility? This is not just for the other people reading this article. Feel free to explain it in the comments. My thanks to Linda Wilson for the beautiful photograph.

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