Civility Requires Self-Awareness
Stacey Turnure

Clarence Day wrote “The test of a civilized person is first self-awareness…”  Hmm.  What does this mean?  What exactly is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is when you realize that, although you are not the center of the universe, everything you say and do can affect those around you.

True self-awareness comes when you recognize that your own thoughts and feelings can lead you to act in a way that is either helpful or harmful to others. 

Here’s an example of how your thoughts and feelings can lead you to act in a way that is harmful to others:

You’ve just paid your monthly bills and realize you don’t have enough money to sign your daughter up for the softball team she wants to join. You are stressed, embarrassed and angry.  You arrive at work to find a group of co-workers laughing in the break room. Their happiness annoys you and you lash out.

Here’s another example of an extreme lack of self-awareness:

Recently, radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh learned that a female Georgetown law student spoke out in support of mandating insurance coverage for contraceptives.  Her stance on the matter angered the talk show host, so he went on the air and called her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”  Then he demanded she post online videos of herself having sex.

His words had a negative effect on his listeners, his sponsors, the woman to whom he was referring, his career and society at large.  In his apology he said, “In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”

Although he was further attacked for a lack of sincerity in his apology, his sentiment was right. Whether you agree with him or not, he has the right to disagree with the woman’s stance.  However, the words he chose were harmful and did nothing to help matters in this situation.  He was upset about the woman’s views and he lashed out without thinking about the consequences.

The bottom line is this:  It’s okay to feel stressed, angry and embarrassed.  It’s okay to disagree and speak your views.  However, when you have self-awareness (aka civility), you know how to keep your thoughts and feelings from translating into harmful words or actions against others.

Click HERE to take our “Self Awareness Quiz.”  This activity comes from the Instructor’s Manual for “The REAL Healthcare Reform.”  The manual is set to be released July 10, 2012.

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3 Responses to Civility Requires Self-Awareness

  1. Andrew Lopez says:

    The problem of incivility is a pervasive one. Of bullying, disrespect in the media and online. We had a recent discussion on Twitter during #MHSM on this:

    Mental Health Social Media, #MHSM 5/15/12, Q1 – why do you think bullying stories get such a big run in popular media? And then also in social media:
    http://hashtags.symplur.com/healthcare-hashtag-transcript.php?hashtag=mhsm&fdate=05-15-2012&shour=18&smin=0&tdate=05-15-2012&thour=19&tmin=3&ssec=00&tsec=00&nort=1

    Seems like once a bully has an audience to egg them on, it encourages the behaviors. With Cyberbullying, you see the same result. I fear it is going to get much, much worse before it gets better.

    Andrew Lopez, RN

  2. suki says:

    I don’t understand how the writer can state that Rush had the right sentiment? His entire persona is always directed as an attack on others. He has refused his entire adult career to look at himself as he truly is. He is the term BULLY in any dictionary. Self centered, self serving, insulting and insecure = RUSH = BULLY.

  3. Stacey Turnure Stacey Turnure says:

    Suki,

    Thanks so much for your response. Please let me be clear, I am in no way defending Rush Limbaugh. I am merely using him as an example to illustrate the concept of self-awareness (or lack thereof). Remember, self-awareness is when we realize that everything we say and do can affect those around us.

    Rush said some things that had a negative impact on himself and those around him. When he apologized, he said, “I used the wrong words.” That means, he “got it” (at least in that moment). He admitted that while he is entitled to his opinion, his WORDS were the problem. Of course that admission didn’t help him much at that point, but he did exhibit the basics of self-awareness by admitting his words were poorly chosen.

    People with true self-awareness realize that it is not a requirement to agree with everyone in order to discuss important topics and learn from others. When trying to make a point, digressing into negativity and name calling is neither helpful, nor healthy. This holds true when responding to someone else’s rudeness, too. While many people agree, pointing out that Rush is self-centered, self-serving, insulting, insecure and a BULLY just perpetuates the problem of incivility.

    Just like Rush, we are free to believe whatever we want, and as Americans, we have the right to free speech. We should speak out, be heard, be passionate and be honest. And, we should feel free to disagree. However, our right to express those thoughts does not come with a license to insult, demean, degrade, intimidate, or bully those who feel differently–even if the other guy did it first!

    “Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.” ~Author Unknown

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