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.
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!