When people think of the word “uncivil,” they generally imagine its most extreme form—belligerence, shouting, chaos, and blatant rudeness. But what we’re far more likely to encounter in our day-to-day lives is a more subtle, but still upsetting, lack of manners. Here people aren’t going out of their way to be obnoxious, but rather, they simply lack consideration for others.
One major symptom of this is constantly pecking away at our iPhones and cell phones rather than participating in the world around us. We’re too busy playing Angry Birds to have a proper conversation or interact with others. I’ve noticed this at a lot of networking events and it makes me wonder why people bothered coming if they are going to fiddle with their phone all night.
Another pet peeve: Those who don’t observe the Golden Rule, or return favors. It’s easy to ask for help, but when it’s our turn to show some consideration, we fail to rise to the occasion.
A perfect example: A friend was telling me about how he had recently helped a friend’s husband fine-tune his resume. It was time-consuming, but he was happy to help. The next day he had invited the couple to a small event in support of another friend. The couple turned up and helped themselves to the free drinks. After 15 minutes the husband left. The wife spent the next half hour in the corner with her BlackBerry. Neither participated in the event, and my friend was not only embarrassed that he had brought them, but disappointed that it was deemed acceptable for him to spend his working hours on the husband’s resume when he couldn’t bother to mingle and participate for an hour. Next time he won’t be so quick to offer help.
You needn’t be cursing up a storm to be viewed as rude and uncivil. Failing to engage or consider how our behavior affects others is a far more persistent threat to our social interactions. Next time, take a step back and think about what sort of message you are sending. If you’re coming off as bored or ungrateful, it’s time for an attitude adjustment.