Gilchrist: Civility not easy but worth the effort

Tracy Gilchrist / Kamloops Daily News
February 22, 2013 01:00 AM

Sara Hacala was speaking largely to the converted; the crowd of 100 clapped when they were supposed to, didn't shout over each other and no one was texting or talking on their smartphones while she spoke.

But I suspect most of us who came to hear the author of Saving Civility, 52 Ways to Tame Rude, Crude and Attitude for a Polite Planet weren't there to learn how to be more civil, rather they wanted strategies to deal with those who aren't.

Maybe that's part of the problem; the jerks who should have attended - loudmouths who argue with store clerks, blockheads who tailgate and louts who blast music at all hours - weren't there Tuesday.

Hacala's key concept was to treat others the way you want to be treated. This means, when confronted with rudeness, turning the other cheek, letting it roll off without being sucked in.

It's easy to respond with a snappy retort, Hacala explained, but all that does is create more of the same.

So when accosted by those less than considerate, she suggests ignoring it or delving deeper by asking the other person about what's really going on; why they are so angry, unkind or uncooperative? Maybe they're having a really bad day for reasons not obvious. It's important to give people the benefit of the doubt, she counsels, be the bigger person and model the behaviour you'd like to see.

One gentle person in the audience suggested saying a prayer for a "those that curse you." For non-religious types, Hacala said this means trying to think something positive about someone while you're locking horns or if that's not possible, something positive about your own life.

I'll give it a whirl (while counting to 10) when people try my patience, but reaching out to the rude by inquiring about their mental state seems unrealistic.

While some may respond to such an extension of the olive branch, if lashing out at others, making snide remarks or being rude in general is part of one's persona, it seems unlikely that individual will benefit from shows of kindness.

One woman shared how her persistent niceness eventually wore down six months of rudeness from a co-worker, but I'm not sure I'd have the appetite to bother trying.

And therein lies part of the problem - if more people don't strive to be civil, we will only continue on a downward path.

Perhaps turning the other cheek does hold merit. Ignoring bad behaviour works in some circumstances - with road rage and anonymous web commenters, for instance - but steadily enduring rudeness from people you encounter on a daily basis is untenable.

That kind of "it's best not to say anything" approach has contributed to too many problems -kids being bullied, harassment in workplaces and children being abused by those charged with their well-being.

I agree it's not necessary to respond with similarly bad behaviour but calling out persistent jerks seems reasonable. "You interrupted me," "That was rude," "You hurt my feelings," and "I don't appreciate your hostility," are obvious responses.

Hacala acknowledges, however, one solution will not fit all, thus her book offering 52 ways to tame the rude and crude.

I consider it a worthwhile pursuit.

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