Is Civility Dead?

Last week I had occasion for multiple (read two) #humblebrag tweets, both times treating service people with basic human dignity had been met with pleasant surprise.

The first time technology really was to blame – I was trying to renew my Microsoft 365 subscription and the website refused to let me attach my Canadian Address to an invoice I was paying with a Canadian credit card, and thus kept denying the payment; the second time I was at fault, I was trying to print from a USB key at Staples and kept selecting “copy” – so we all know how well that was going.

During the first interaction, the service people kept apologizing for what was so clearly a computer glitch that I finally told one of them that I was sure it wasn’t their fault, and not to worry… the times when a beleaguered sigh of “thank you” both warms your heart and makes you wonder how awful the caller before, or all of the callers before had been.

During the second interaction, I apologized to the clearly overworked sales person for dragging her over so that she could calmly explain to me the difference between “copy” and “print”, because that was incredibly embarrassing… Her response, “oh that’s ok, at least you were nice about it, and you didn’t yell” she also ran the job off on the big machine for me and charged me the self serve rate, so bonus!

All of this leaves me wondering, how bad is it getting out there? I mean I’ve seen rude, the lady in line at the cash having a conversation on SPEAKER PHONE who can’t muster a hello for the cashier – yes, I spoke up – or the guy at the store yesterday who said thank you to me for holding the door right before he promptly dropped/slammed it in the face of the woman behind him.

Each and every one of these instances happened in the last seven days, and as anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a bit prickly, and not always that friendly. So, if I can exercise enough basic manners, to say “please” and “thank you”, to say “hello” and to smile at strangers, then so can everyone else. Because I for one, will not let civility go silently into the dark night.

So, what does being civil have to do with living the lighter life? A couple simple ideas (although obviously I was polite long before I was minimalist and a healthy eater): when you are organized and running on-time (or even a little ahead) your nerves are less likely to be frayed, and you are less likely to be short on patience for everyone else; when you feel your best, it lifts your entire mood, you smile more instead of barely holding it together, I actually believe that better health does indeed support better behaviour.

I recently heard that you should approach every interaction as you would the greeting of an old friend, relaxed, open, friendly, engaged – you wouldn’t yell at an old friend for taking an extra few seconds to scan your cucumbers, so go easy on the grocery clerk who might have been on her feet for hours. This is an extension of my resolution to complete small acts of kindness, I hope you’ll join me in the quest to bring civility back to our communities.

Hold the door open, smile, say thank you. What will you do today to keep the wheels of your community socially greased?

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