be kind

While some stress (can we say deadlines?) are marvelously effective in focusing the mind, excessive or unnecessary stress is a distraction, can hinder productivity or limit creativity, and at the extreme, impact our health. The most unnecessary source of stress of all is disrespectful, rude, or uncivil behavior. Most rude or uncivil behavior is not truly intended to be mean, it’s often a result of “collateral damage”: Someone so task-focused that they see brusqueness as an unavoidable and/or acceptable cost to mission accomplishment (in part because they do not understand the FULL cost) OR someone so lacking in EQ that while aware of their behavior does not fully understand the impact they are having on the emotions of others.

One solution: With a good heart and loving, helpful intentions hold up a non-judgmental “social mirror”: “When you behave like x, I (and perhaps others) feel y and it has z consequences. I do not think you want z.” Example: “When I meet with you and your gaze is constantly wandering, I feel that you are not attentive and thus that you do not value my work. That de-motivates me from doing my best work for you. I do not think you want that outcome.” This works because ignorance more than malice drives most rudeness.

Many argue that being polite takes time yet often civility is mainly a matter of tone, attitude, and body language which take no additional time. Furthermore, while it is difficult to see directly, civility promotes productivity and team oriented behavior. Any short term time gains can often be quickly overwhelmed by long term productivity drains of disengagement and turnover.

As always, an open mind is important when interpreting the behavior of others: some think emailing during meetings is impolite while others consider it a vital productivity enhancement allowing them to “monitor” a meeting, especially during parts that do not directly impact them.

Closing Quotes

“Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.” – Mary Wortley Montagu
“Straightforwardness without civility is like a surgeon’s knife, effective but unpleasant. Candor with courtesy is helpful and admirable.”
– Yukteswar Giri
“Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.”   – George Washington 
“Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James 
“We have a choice about how we behave, and that means we have the choice to opt for civility and grace.”  – Dwight Curries

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier