As some of you may know, I am in the process of launching a Civility Counts project, which is based on the principles of Respect, Restraint, and Responsibility. To help spread the word, I’m devoting the next few weeks to covering civility and how we can practice more of it in our day-to-day lives. I’ll be reviewing some of Dr. P.M. Forni’s “25 Rules of Considerate Conduct,” which, if you aren’t already familiar with them, form an excellent basis for essential etiquette.
The traffic is a nightmare. The barista gave you soy milk, not skim. And the line you’re waiting in just isn’t budging. All annoyances, yes. But does it really help matters to moan and complain about it all? No—in fact, in many circumstances it makes the situation more unbearable. Waiting in a long line is no fun for me, but waiting in a long line while the people around me whine about it? Much worse.
One of Forni’s civility rules is to “refrain from idle complaints.” In other words, choose your battles wisely. People who constantly complain are typically seen as negative influences, and can even have a toxic effect on their peers’ behavior as well. As a result, civility goes out the window. There’s also the “boy who cried wolf” syndrome, in which moaning about petty matters simply to assert your authority can backfire when you actually have a legitimate complaints to make.
That’s not to say you should be a pushover. Some situations do require speaking up. But for minor issues, sometimes the best approach is to take a deep breath and focus on something positive to take your mind off it. If you’re waiting in a long line, put on your iPod and listen to some upbeat songs. In England, they have a World War II-era saying that goes, “Keep calm and carry on.” There’s much to be said for just getting on with it!
Forni also advises us to “be agreeable.” Yes, we all have bad days, and yes, it’s only human to get cranky because we’re tired or hungry or whatever, but acting miserable does nothing but make the people around us uncomfortable. We don’t have to act like perky Pollyannas 24/7. It just simply means making an effort to lighten up, put a smile on our face, and treat others as we’d like to be treated. Don’t take your bad mood out on others.
Stay tuned for more civility pointers in the weeks to come!