Monday September 01, 2014





Are you quite polite?

In an age when epithets are not only common language, they are abbreviated on Twitter and in emails, politeness and manners seem to be old-fashioned and even outdated

Sara Hacala

Old-school comedian Rodney Dangerfield always lamented how he "couldn't get no respect."

Sara Hacala would have had some tips for him to solve that lack of social regard.

Hacala has written a book about treating others with respect and dignity — Saving Civility: 52 Ways to Tame Rude, Crude and Attitude for a Polite Planet.

She'll be passing on some of her concepts concerning consideration of others in Kamloops at a free presentation on Feb. 19, as well as speaking to groups with the City, RCMP, school district and Thompson Rivers University.

Being kind and respectful doesn't mean letting others walk all over you; it does mean treating others with dignity and learning to deflect others' rudeness.

Hacala grew up in the southern U.S. at a time when respect for elders, please and thank you were natural parts of everyday life.

As a baby boomer, she experienced the rebellious 1960s and '70s. But most boomers returned, at least in part, to the status quo when it came to raising their own children and passed on at least some expectation of politeness.

Generations X and Y were more focussed on themselves and grew up in a world where kids were told their feelings mattered above everyone else's. Hacala said studies show kids now are less empathetic than they used to be.

She did extensive research while writing her book, so while the messages about smiling, listening and respecting others might seem simple, there is evidence behind it.

We've become disconnected with each other, and that disconnect has widened with people's hectic, rushed lives that have no room for personal, face-to-face time.

"I don't know if we're rude because we've become disconnected with each other or if we're disconnected with each other because we're rude," she said.

But we need those personal connections. And no, cellphone calls, emails and text messages don't count.

"It is a very impersonal way in which to communicate. Constant contact is not connection," Hacala said.

"We all know the Internet is a wild, wild west. We can anonymously post anything, whether it's true or false, and have it spread far and wide, without any accountability."

Bad behavior is destructive, in the workplace and at home, she said. It's also costly, in terms of relationships and morale.

"Our lives are better when we're kind to each other. Our stress levels go up when rudeness occurs. . . . Social scientists will tell us we have a primal need to belong. Our relationships are the most important thing in our lives."

Hacala confessed that she has had less-than-polite moments in her own life and she even included some of them in her book. Now that people know she's written a book on respecting others, she feels she has to model what she preaches.

"I have a quick tongue and I used to use it to skewer people. I've really learned to bite my tongue. I'm not doing a good thing when I do it," she said.

"It starts with yourself. We can only control ourselves. We can't control other people. But there is a ripple effect with our behavior, whether it's positive or negative."

Some of her tips don't take much, like a simple smile or paying attention to someone who's talking.

"Just making a conscious decision to embrace kindness. Deliberately choose to do one kind act today and fulfill that."

Hacala has heard of civility initiatives popping up on college campuses throughout the U.S. and she's hoping it'll spread to Canada.

Her visit to Kamloops includes a stop with City staff and committees.

Jen Casorso, recreation supervisor – social and community development, said the goal is to generate ideas about how Hacala's push for politeness and respect can be used within the City as a corporation and as a community.

"We try to support the positive behaviors or culture that we already embrace. How do we further that culture within the organization and within our community?" she said.

"Our corporate mission is Making Kamloops Shine. How do we do that? I see this as part of that. It's really a customer service initiative."

Any initiatives that help promote inclusiveness, cultural diversity and accessibility are worth exploring, she said.

"We really try to be a community that's family friendly, we support diversity, disabilities, all of those things. These fundamentals help support that awareness."

RCMP Supt. Yves Lacasse said the police will put Hacala's insights to use with its respectful workplace program.

He read her book and found some themes within it that would be good for supervisors and the respectful workplace committee to hear.

"She has a wealth of knowledge, experience, training and leadership," he said.

"It's not being reactive and waiting for issues to come up, but to tackle issues proactively. Before problems arise, let's fix things."

* * *

PRESENTATION

Saving Civility author Sara Hacala gives a free public presentation, complete with time for questions and answers, on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m.

The event takes place at St. Paul's Cathedral, 360 Nicola St., and it's open to everyone.

The presentation is called Living the Golden Rule: Faith as Civil Living and it will look at making the community a better, more caring place to live.


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