No matter what our age, we must have the skills necessary to engage in civilized behavior. For civilization to work, we must practice courtesy, respect and other civilized behaviors. All of us need to know that we serve our own interests best when we consider the interests of others. This is the essence of civilized behavior and the foundation for an effective society that values individuality and not collective groups. It is also the basis for personal success and achievement.
It starts with the family. Couples need to be respectful of one another and have the skills to work through their differences in an effective manner. Children need to able to play cooperatively and not demand more toy time grabbing and screaming. Siblings need to keep their hands to themselves and use words to share their frustration with one another. Employees and employers need to exhibit respectful behaviors and boundaries in the workplace even if there is a disagreement in the office. When we meet new people, we need to be skilled in the art of small talk, personal pleasantries, etiquette, grooming and manners.
Life is hard, and people get frustrated. All of us are prone to be annoyed at other drivers for a minor infraction that effects our schedules. We get angry when we call for customer service and must go through several phone prompts to finally get to a service representative. We have watched over-zealous parents scream at coaches or young players on the field because they felt that their child was treated unfairly. The discussion of politics is a vivid example of how uncivilized we have become screaming and name calling to whomever does not share our views. The internet is bursting with examples of disrespect, sarcasm and incivility. Leaders do it, corporate executives do it, parents do it, and now children are doing it. They are exposed to negativity at home when families deal with conflict in unhealthy ways. Many children witness domestic violence, sarcasm, disrespect, passive-aggressive behavior, blame shifting and emotional abuse.
In this sometimes-toxic culture we are losing our humanity and our ability to self-sooth, make healthy, rational and intentional decisions, stay calm and cope with the incivility we encounter. This normalization of incivility is affecting our health, sense of well-being, our democracy and is even threatening our way of life.
To change this, it starts with us. We must recognize the humanity, dignity and worth of every individual. We must not give away our power to those who frustrate or even insult us. We need to learn new ways of responding rather than reacting. Many times, a kind or soft word helps to deescalate the situation. We must institute he Golden Rule which engenders ageless truth. We must not look to harm others. We must obey the rule of law, desire justice for all, increase our emotional intelligence, value differences, be inclusive, come to the aid of those in need and make it a priority to build healthy relationships. The health of our nation depends on you!
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