Kindness, respect and civility. These qualities are the cornerstone of soft skills and the basis for profitable human connection. We admonish our children to “be good.” We teach them manners as a basic interaction tool, and we tell them to treat others as they wish to be treated. It’s time we adults took our own advice to heart.
Civility costs nothing. There is no toll to be paid for civility and yet we adults frequently log situations where kindness and civility are excused. Road rage is a perfect example. Or forwarding internet memes designed to demean people - they’re okay, ‘cause it’s funny and it’s just a joke.
How about when someone is disrespectful to us?
Did you forget to thank me for holding the door? I now have carte blanche to call you an asshole, out loud. Apply that turn signal a little too late (or not at all?), eh? I’m just gonna speed up and flip you off, so you know who’s boss, etcetera, etcetera.
Dismiss these skills as “soft” or even as unnecessary to our success, at your own peril. In the simplest terms, when we feel disrespected or are treated unkindly, it makes us feel bad and we don’t perform at our best, particularly at work. Georgetown Professor Christine Porath, who has amassed a staggering amount of data and research on the effects of incivility in the workplace, writes,
Of the nearly 800 managers and employees across 17 industries Christine Pearson of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and I polled, those who didn't feel respected performed worse. Forty-seven percent of those who were treated poorly intentionally decreased the time spent at work, and 38% said they deliberately decreased the quality of their work. Sixty-six percent reported their performance declined and 78% said their commitment to the organization had declined.
Imagine the impact respect, kindness and civility have on the bottom line of a company, as well as a personal relationship. There is a domino effect: by making people feel valued and listened to, we in turn feel valued and a tone is set. Incivility breeds more of the same. Bosses who abuse their authority or belittle others will create that ongoing, unprofitable drama. Being good at something doesn’t give you a pass to be a lousy human.
Kindness may cost nothing, but it does take an effort. We have to be more aware of ourselves and how we deal and cooperate with people. We literally have to treat others as we want to be treated and not pay lip service to that idea. In a survey conducted by the Born This Way Foundation (Lady Gaga’s undertaking), 3,000 teens, young adults and parents found that mental wellness is dramatically impacted by being around or close to, kind people. There is a logic to it. The Golden Rule is gold for a reason.
Respect, kindness, and civility aren't always easy. Sometimes it’s hard damn work to maintain civility in the face of unkindness. Lashing out or acting back may feel really, really good, for a moment… but, character is not made up of what someone else does. It's made of what we do.
LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her company produces training events utilizing theatre strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans.