How to combat incivility and create a more respectful society

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The good news is that there are many remedies for incivility

Faith Wood knows how to resolve conflict. Her years in front-line law enforcement taught her how to effectively de-escalate any situation to a successful conclusion. Faith uses her knowledge of conflict management to guide you through the often stressful experiences you may encounter in your personal or professional life.

Faith WoodQ: What on earth is going on these days? There is so much incivility in our workplaces and communities; how did this happen, and do you have any recommendations for what to do about it?

A: Incivility has become a growing problem in modern society, especially in online communication where people feel emboldened to say things they would never dare to in person. We see this in social media posts, blog comments, and even in email threads. The rise of the internet has made it easy for people to hide behind anonymity and attack others with insults and harmful language. But it seems that nowadays, we don’t need a screen to feel justified in spouting off.

When people engage in uncivil behaviour, it can have a significant impact on both the individuals involved and society. Some of the effects of incivility include:

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Emotional Distress: Incivility can cause significant emotional distress for the target of uncivil behaviour. People who are on the receiving end of incivility may feel anxious, depressed, or angry, which can affect their mental health.

Decreased Productivity: When people are subjected to incivility in the workplace, it can negatively impact their productivity. They may become distracted or disengaged, leading to a decrease in work quality and output.

Divisiveness: Incivility can create a sense of divisiveness within society. It can lead to the formation of polarized groups that are unwilling to listen to the views of others, creating a culture of intolerance and hatred.

Incivility can take many forms, including insults, name-calling, and derogatory language. Here are some examples of incivility in action:

Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is a form of incivility that takes place online. It involves using social media, messaging apps, or other digital platforms to harass, intimidate, or humiliate another person.

Personal Attacks: Personal attacks are another common form of incivility. These attacks can be directed at someone’s race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, opinions, or other personal characteristics.

Disrespectful Language: Using disrespectful language is a common form of incivility. This can include profanity, belittling someone’s opinion, or derogatory comments.

The good news is that there are many remedies for incivility, and we can all play a part in making our society more civil. Here are some steps we can take to combat incivility:

Set a Positive Example: One of the best ways to combat incivility is to set a positive example. This means treating others with respect, even if we disagree with them. We can model positive behaviour for others by engaging in civil discourse and avoiding personal attacks.

Speak Up: When we witness incivility, we can speak up and call it out. This can be as simple as saying, “That’s not a respectful way to talk to someone,” or “I don’t think that’s an appropriate comment.” By speaking up, we can signal to others that incivility is unacceptable.

Practice Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. By practicing empathy, we can better understand the perspectives of others and avoid making uncivil comments. We can try to put ourselves in the shoes of the person we are speaking to and consider how our words might make them feel.

Take a Break: When we find ourselves getting upset or angry during a conversation, it can be helpful to take a break. This can give us time to calm down and collect our thoughts before responding. We can also take a break from social media or other online platforms if we find ourselves becoming too caught up in uncivil discourse.

It’s important to remember that we all have a role to play in combatting incivility. By doing our part, we can create a more respectful and tolerant society where everyone feels valued and heard.

Ultimately, incivility is a choice, and we can choose to be part of the solution rather than the problem. By treating others with respect, listening to different perspectives, and engaging in civil discourse, we can create a better world for ourselves and future generations. Let’s make civility the norm and incivility the exception.

Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.

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The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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