Well, the holiday season is behind us and with it goes the feeling (some might call it a delusion) I always have that the world is a happier and politer place between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve. Of course, crowded shopping venues, overspending, and pressure to bake and decorate can snap the nerves of even those who are normally courteous. Still, my fuzzy feelings about the holidays persist year after year.
So is the world generally getting ruder? Anyone who spends any amount of time in the “blogosphere” has witnessed, or suffered, the sometimes shocking incivility that crops up in so many comments threads. Most of us have known the frustration and anger caused by rude fellow drivers. Of course, it’s a presidential election year which is bound to add increasing volatility to an already contentious and high-volume political arena.
Maybe it’s time to give some thought to what it means to be truly civil. I don’t mean manners in the sense of knowing which fork to use or always sending thank-you notes (although I think that is an excellent practice). Some sources define “civility” as politeness or courtesy but I think a meaningful definition goes deeper than that. Respect, consideration, and generosity must also figure into the equation.
Saving Civility: 52 ways to tame rude, crude, and attitude for a polite planet by Sara Hacala. This brand-new title presents a definition of civility that encompasses personal values and attitudes and not just “proper” behavior. The approach of the book is less about correcting other people’s behavior and more about how we as individuals can provide a positive influence that inspires change. Short chapters with titles such as “Sharpen Your Social Antenna” and “Take the High Road” provide concise and accessible advice for doing just that. Highly recommended!
P. M. Forni’s The Civility Solution: what to do when people are rude provides solutions to “everyday” discourtesies in an appealingly compact package. Forni outlines an approach to rude behavior that emphasizes personal assertiveness (as opposed to aggression) and “not taking it personally”…an observation that I think can be easy to forget but important to remember, especially when we get caught up in the heat of the moment.
Amy Alkon, author of the popular blog The Advice Goddess, is also the author of I See Rude People: one woman’s battle to beat some manners into an impolite society. As the title suggests, Alkon’s employs a “defensive strategy” approach to dealing with the rude, and some of her ideas are quite brilliant if not actually suggestions that the rest of us would (dare) use. More an entertainment than an actual manifesto for change, the book is, nonetheless, very fun to read.
…and finally the thrill lovers among us can always re-watch The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal on DVD, certainly not to emmulate the star villain’s well-known solution to rudeness (yikes!), but to enjoy Anthony Hopkins turn as the terrifying, yet strangely “civilized” Hannibal Lecter.