What Does Civility Mean to You?

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If you encountered the situations below, how would you fill in the rest of this sentence, "That person is so...
" Here are the situations to consider:
  • You are sitting somewhere.
    Someone sits down next to you and starts playing music from their cell phone...
    without headphones.
  • Or perhaps the person is wearing headphones, but the music is so loud you can hear every beat and lyric.
  • You follow on the heels of someone entering a store.
    The person pushes the door open then let's it go - right in your face as you are about to step through.
  • Your restaurant server throws your food on the counter or table...
    or perhaps you get your change tossed at you.
  • Someone on bus, elevator or other closed space has a loud conversation on their cell phone.
  • You get a job as a telemarketer.
    The person who answers snaps at you, "Are you a telemarketer?" then hangs up after you say "yes".
    Or they may take the next five minutes to yell at you about how you've interrupted their dinner.
  • You're walking along conversing with a friend.
    You hear really loud music approaching you and turn to see a car - fifty feet back - approaching with the windows rolled down.
    As the car, you are unable to continue your conversation and have to wait until they are about 30 feet away before resuming talking.
  • The doors start closing on the elevator and you run for it yelling, "Wait!" You reach it in time to see the person inside standing still, doing nothing.
    Even worse, the person is waving and smiling at you as the doors slide shut.
How would the person's actions in each situation make you feel? Would you feel annoyed, or possibly angry? How did you complete the sentence, "That person is so...
"? Did you use words like 'rude' or 'uncivil'? What does civility mean to you? What specific actions or behaviour are 'civil' or 'uncivil'? What is it about the action that makes you feel it is civil or uncivil? Just yesterday I was speaking with a friend about what is civility.
Today I ran into a case of blatant incivility to give me a perfect example to share with you.
Here is the situation: I was making a follow-up call to a prospect.
Whenever I make a call and I have an extension number, I will usually give that to the receptionist to spare them the bit of extra effort of having to look up an extension connected to a name.
It's a practice I've followed for most of my twenty years in business.
This call was no exception.
I gave the receptionist the extension number...
and she hung up on me.
I thought perhaps I'd been accidentally disconnected, so I called back and asked for the extension again.
This time I got a curt 'No' before the receptionist hung up.
No explanations.
No questions.
Just a disconnect.
How strange! This kind of behaviour would not have been tolerated at any of my previous jobs, and I wouldn't tolerate it from any of my employees.
Why? Because it is rude and uncivil, of course.
What is civility, anyway? The dictionary tells us civility is courteous behaviour and politeness.
'Uncivil' is being discourteous and rude.
While you may not encounter someone hanging up on you for an unknown reason, there is a good chance you may encounter incivility in numerous other small ways that we overlook - like the examples above.
I compiled that list from conversations and personal experience about what people consider uncivil.
The way I judge if a behaviour is uncivil is to imagine myself (or recall being) on the receiving end of it.
How would I, or did I, feel? I'll admit that as a teenager I drove around with my windows down and music blaring.
It wasn't until years later that I appreciated not everyone has the same taste in music as me - or that I was disturbing their peace of mind as I passed.
For me, this behaviour is rude because the people cannot get away from listening to the music as the car passes.
Now if I want to blare the music, I close the windows.
Some people might not think carrying out a loud conversation in a closed space is uncivil.
After years of travel on trains and buses, I find this uncivil strictly because, like the passing car, I am unable to escape the loud talking.
Whenever I travel, I make a concerted effort to speak in a low voice.
If I need to talk on the phone, I cup my hand over my mouth and receiver; that way the sound goes into the phone receiver and is muffled from those around me.
As for telemarketers, this was one of my first jobs as a teenager.
The behaviour I encountered when I was calling showed clearly how rude people can be to a stranger.
Why doesn't a stranger deserve respect? Sure, it can be annoying to have dinner interrupted.
So, if the phone rings during dinner, don't answer it and let the machine pick up.
Or get registered on a 'no call' list (which is usually free to do) to avoid telemarketing calls altogether.
Can you think of other examples of common incivilities? Or, better yet, examples of civil behaviour? Only by thinking about how our actions affect those around us can we make the world a truly better place.
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