Embracing Civility

The REAL Healthcare Reform!

Tag: freedom of speech

What change do you want to be a part of?

We were honored to be contacted this week by Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke from The Institute for Civility in Government. Although our target audience is different (politicians for them, healthcare for us), our platform is the same. Our common goal: Civility.

Those of you who have read our book, “The REAL Healthcare Reform” may already recognize The Institute for Civility in Government. They inspired our thoughts about civility with their “definition.” They were, and continue to be a great inspiration to us!

If you are not already aware of their work, philosophy and goals, please see the Editorial Letter re-printed below. If you have an interest in restoring civility to public and political discourse, please contact The Institute and find out how you can begin to make a difference in your own community.


An Editorial Letter from
Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke
The Institute for Civility in Government.

Things change.  That’s what they say.  And indeed they do.  Technology changes.  Norms change.  Culture changes.  Laws change over time.  Some of the change is good, and some – not so much.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.   That’s what they say.  Some people lead.  Others follow.  Everyone is in it for themselves.  Greed abounds.  Corruption is real.  The world is always at war somewhere.  People are essentially kind.

Which truth is true?  Both?  Neither?  One or the other?  One more than the other?  The way you answer those questions says a lot about the way you approach life.

If you believe that the more things change, the more they stay the same, you probably don’t have much incentive to get involved in a whole lot beyond your personal space.  Why bother?  It’s not going to make a difference anyway.

If you believe things change, you may say that civility is old fashioned and has lost its place as a priority.  You may believe civility is quaint, weak – a social “nicety” with no real purpose.  The world has moved on.

Or, if you believe things change, you may want to roll up your sleeves and do something to counteract the growing polarization in this country.  You may want to help restore civility to our communities and nation.  You may want to (gasp!) get involved and make a difference!

We decided to do just that when we became aware that in this country we, as a society, lack the basic skills and will to maintain civility with one another even in the midst of disagreement.  It isn’t that we immediately get ugly and hateful and angry (although we do that with alarming frequency).  But as often as not, once we discover we fundamentally disagree with someone else we shut down, conversation stops, and we walk away – never to relate on anything more than a superficial level again, if that.

So we launched the Institute for Civility in Government – a grassroots, non-partisan, non-profit organization whose purpose is to teach civility skills and give voice to all those who long to shift the culture from one of polarization and antagonism to one of mutual respect and cooperative effort.  Yes – give voice to Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents – everyone!  The Institute doesn’t take a position on anyone or any issue.  We just say we need to do this thing called governing – at any and all levels – better.  And the good news is we can!

We can give other people a chance to be heard without shouting them down, calling them names, or tuning them out.  We can express our own viewpoints from the strength of our own position rather than by the weaknesses of someone else’s.  We can operate on the trust that most of us truly want the best for our city, state and country, even if we don’t always agree on what the best is.  We can model the behavior we teach our children – to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

What is civility?  We define civility as “claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”  It’s not about giving in just to get along, but claiming our own beliefs even as we respectfully allow others to claim theirs.  That doesn’t sound so very difficult, does it?  And yet it seems to elude us.

What is at stake?  What difference does it make if we yell and scream and call other people names?  Well, for one thing – words are formative.  Disagreeing with someone can easily slide into disliking them.  Disliking them can easily slide into demonizing them.  Demonizing them can easily slide into victimizing them.  It’s a slippery slope that the human community has traveled down too many times already, and it’s time to stop.  It’s time to hold to a standard of civility – not because it is the law, but because it is the national will.

While it is unfortunate that we have reached a time and place where we must organize for civility, we evidently have.  Yet the good news is that as more and more people give voice to their support for civility, it will become politically expedient for our elected officials to model the behavior we expect.

If we cannot listen and speak with one another with respect, there is little else we can accomplish together.  And if we don’t practice civility everywhere, the day may soon come when we cannot find civility anywhere.

Change doesn’t happen by itself.  People make it happen – for better or for worse.  What change do you want to be a part of?


Please visit www.instituteforcivility.org for
more inforation about this great organization!

Incivility: An Issue Worth $5 Million and Some Change

If you think workplace incivility—such as name-calling, bullying and using demeaning or degrading language—is no big deal . . . think again! These behaviors, while not entirely illegal, can violate civil rights and federal employment anti-discrimination laws.   AT&T just found this out the hard way.

A jury recently ruled that AT&T created a “hostile work environment” and awarded a past employee $5.12 million in compensation.

It all started when AT&T network technician, Susann Bashir converted from Christianity to Islam—six years after she started working for the company. Once converted, Bashir started wearing a traditional head scarf. The religious symbol triggered a barrage of daily insults and threats from co-workers. They called her a “terrorist” and asked her if she was going to blow up the building. Her manager told her to remove the scarf, insulted her for wearing it, and once even physically grabbed the scarf to rip it off her head.

Bashir contacted the human resources department, but when nothing was done to protect her from the abuse, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

During the EEOC’s investigation, Bashir asked to either be transferred or to have her manager removed. Neither request was honored. At that point, Bashir was too stressed to continue working in the abusive environment. The company responded by firing her.

This isn’t simply about religious discrimination. Susann’s co-workers had the right to their own beliefs about her religion and her head scarf. However, they had no right to act on their beliefs by belittling and bullying her. The $5 million dollar award sends a loud message to employers. Employers and employees alike have to stop tolerating this type of behavior in the workplace. Companies can spend a little money up front to put a civility training program in place, or they may end up draining their profits by paying huge settlements in court.

In an interview with her local news, Bashir said, “I think it was a victory, it was a victory for everyone, every little person who is worried about stepping forward, every person who has been harassed, it was a great victory.”

As in most cases that involve money of this magnitude, Susann may never actually get the money the jury awarded to her. AT&T is appealing the verdict and Missouri’s legislature may move to uphold a law that limits punitive damages to five times the amount of actual damages. In Susann’s case that would be $600,000. Our guess is that regardless of the final award amount, Susann will still consider herself victorious.

Civility in the Salad Bowl

diversity in healthcare, incivility, civility, civility training, bully nursesSocial scientist used to refer to the American population as a “Melting Pot.”  This was intended to describe a multi-cultural society where different ethnic and racial groups could come together and eventually become more like each other—and less defined by their differences.

This theory broke down when it became obvious that society becomes stronger when people hold onto their differences.  When a variety of people can come together and share different perspectives, philosophies and life experiences, the outcome is much richer, more creative and more productive.

The “Melting Pot” theory was tossed aside to make way for the “Salad Bowl” theory.  In the salad bowl, all the ingredients come together—but each item remains unique and different.  There is a quick toss—but no blending!  Each ingredient retains its original form and flavor.

Unfortunately, maintaining civility can be a challenge in the Salad Bowl!  Not only are we dealing with different racial and ethnic groups, but there are also different genders, different ages, different disciplines, different educational backgrounds, different personalities, different social classes and different income levels.

All these differences may lead you to ask, “Can there ever be civility in the Salad Bowl?”

The answer is “Yes!”  You simply have to learn to embrace the beauty and the benefit of all the differences that surround you.  Here are a few quick tips for maintaining civility in the salad bowl:

  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Think about what it must be like to be them—what they may be going through and why they behave as they do.  When you try to understand other people, it’s easier to empathize with them (even when they behave badly).
  • Tone it down.  If you’re the loudest person in the room, you can be sure no one is listening to or respecting what you have to say.
  • Listen.  Really listen to what others say when they speak to you.
  • You can’t always be right.  If you’re always right, you’re doing something wrong.  Try to separate your knowledge from your opinions.  Allow others to have their own beliefs and opinions.
  • Bite your tongue.  Avoid insulting, criticizing, judging or nit-picking others.  This behavior shuts the door on civility.
  • Mind your manners.  It doesn’t cost a dime to be courteous and polite!

For more information about embracing civility in the healthcare workplace, read
“The REAL Healthcare Reform: How Embracing Civility Can Beat Back Burnout and Revive Your Healthcare Career.”

If you’d like general information about embracing civility in any workplace, read
“Get the Grouch OUT: How Embracing Civility Can Banish Bad Behaviors and Create a More
Respectful and Productive Workplace.”

Civility vs. Political Correctness

There has been much rhetoric lately that aims to confuse civility with “political correctness.”   The term “politically correct” became popular back in the 80’s when certain groups began to call on society to eliminate the use of insulting labels associated with certain races, genders, disabilities, cultures and worldviews.

Unfortunately, the term was used in the public arena as a weapon to poke fun at those groups.  Many claimed the groups were “too sensitive” and couldn’t handle a little honesty and directness.  In public and private, opponents of the idea would recall the old, “sticks and stones can break my bones . . .” line and claim that words shouldn’t hurt.

As a result, the term became a “dirty word” that was blamed as a catalyst of censorship and an affront to free speech.  People claimed they could not speak their minds or say how they felt because they had to be so careful not to hurt someone’s feelings.

Now, the very same people that ridiculed those “sensitive” groups for trying to get rid of derogatory labels are claiming that the recent call for civility is the same thing.  The battle cry among the challengers is that “civility” tramples on free speech.

To be clear, the two ideas are quite different and comparing one to the other is a “bullying” tactic designed to demonize both concepts.  While being civil does require you to refrain from insulting others, it goes much deeper than that.

Civility requires self-awareness, thoughtfulness and respect for others.  Civility asks us to listen and take into account the opinions of others, (even those with whom we disagree) and to give up the notion that our own thoughts and opinions are all that matter.

Civility does not mean we have to censor ourselves or refrain from honest and frank discussions.  In fact, it can actually make those discussions more productive.  Civil behavior can keep even the most divisive topics from digressing into unnecessary hostility or bullying.

It is completely possible to have a passionate, yet civil discussion between two people who disagree that is full of honest and frank opinion—when that discussion is kept in check with mindfulness, thoughtfulness, and sincere respect for the opinions of others.

Please, do not fall into the trap of believing that “civility” or “civil conduct” is trampling on your rights.   Your opinions matter.  Speak out, be heard, be passionate, and be honest.  Feel free to disagree.  Just keep in mind that your right to express those thoughts does not come with a license to insult, demean   degrade, intimidate, or bully those who feel differently.

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