Requiem for Civility

misbehaving-child-750x500Ding Ding Ding! Survey says – America might have a civility deficit. Duh. It appears rudeness, and incivility have become as contagious as the annoying common cold  — and just as hard to cure. Aggressive language, insults, demeaning words flow like waterfalls from mouths of people from political leadership to the neighbor down the road. What could go wrong?!

We live in a hurry up world. From road rage on the morning commute to high decibel restaurant cell phone conversations, behaving badly has become a hallmark of a ‘new’ world. Self-absorbed communication and demands for instant gratification strain common courtesies to the breaking point. They say a fish rots from the head and this political climate brought a nasty stench. The rhetoric of this past election had no small part in the ever-growing, no-holds barred incivility. But, to be truthful, we all have a part in what has grown with abandon. And, as a Senator, who recently stated that we have ‘normalized’ bad behavior, said, “Enough!”.

Rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength. Eric Hoffer

How did we get here? Do we have heftier passions than our ancestors? I doubt it. (Does Henry the VIII or the Inquisition ring a bell?) 2,000 years before us, there was still a heck of a lot of bad behavior. Is there more political division now? Monarchy or democracy, there have always been political divides but social media and TV ‘s in-your-face communication reaches audiences of previously unimagined proportions. Fake news, alternative facts, and blatant untruths roll by without impunity and nonchalant arrogance that do little to make us proud. Continue reading

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We Need To Talk

conversation

What a concept. In this day of uber technology, just good ol’ fashioned talking. Few of us are not connected to text, email, Facebook or Twitter — a lot.  (I admit, I’m guilty as charged) That ease of communication can be a double edged sword, though. It can be such an easy go-to that face-to-face talking is becoming the last, not first resort.

My kids, who are busy parents, really hate talking on the phone. In fact, two of the three will do almost anything to avoid answering a ringing phone yet they message with speed and ease. There’s really no talking on the phone to my older grandchildren either yet I can discover pretty much anything from their texts or Facebook timelines. And they are not alone. Studies show that 32% of people would rather text than talk to you. But, boy, don’t you miss the prehistoric days when people talked in real time?

While IM’ing is quick and responsive, it leaves a lot to be desired sometimes. All those nonverbal quirks that can sway a conversation are absent. We have no idea if a short answer is in context or abrupt, part of a larger, more expansive thought or protected in anger or fear of judgement. A simple smile, tear or smirk changes the temperature of the conversation. Your own thoughts are conveyed without benefit or warmth or meaning other than the stark letters on a screen.

Things go best when you pay close attention to what is being said and that’s a little difficult in text time. In email, we have a delete button which saves a lot of oops messaging, assuming we use it before pushing send. Yet, there’s still something to be said about face-to-face contact. It’s in that place that we learn, through each other’s facial expressions, posture and tone, who, we are.

Without communication, we are all together in this big world – alone. We can’t have our needs met without the help of others; nor can they. Sure, we can say that we walk and chew gum at the same time but can we really? I’m a pretty good multi-tasker and can pay bills, read the newspaper, text and watch tv at the same time but which of them am I doing well? Ah, good question. Continue reading