Was the disappearance of civility a slow, drawn out process or was it just gone one day, like that proverbial nocturnal thief? Whatever the case, I mourn its absence, and would like to invite it back to hang out.

I believe in civility – I think manners still matter. I think respect, mutually given and humbly received, is vital to every relationship we have.  Even I think I sound old, but what a sad commentary that is.

How does this relate to mediation? Conflict is a part of life: we are all individuals with individual needs and wants, some of which will eventually collide, causing disagreement. It isn’t whether or not conflict exists, it’s how we deal with it that matters, and increasingly, we are dealing with it badly.

Maybe my notion of a kinder, gentler, more civil time exists only in black and white movies or Jane Austen novels, but I don’t think so. I believe there was a time when honesty was lauded,  when promises given were kept as a matter of honour, and when respect was given, however grudgingly, when deserved. I’d like to return to that time.

We have created a complex web of relationships for ourselves, so it seems harder, or less necessary to always remember civilities, but it seems to me the complexity of our world demands them even more. With our increasing ability to respond instantly, pressures are immense. A deadline easily extended would both ease pressure and strengthen the relationship. Common courtesy. A simple phone call to an opponent to clarify a misunderstanding, rather than a lengthy exchange of heated letters or emails, would help avoid needless time, expense and acrimony and again, strengthen the relationship. The honourable thing to do. A willingness to actually listen to another’s point of view, however opposed, will usually help clarify issues and often lead to productive dialogue, rather than further argument. A matter of respect. A proposal that is actually reasonable and fair, rather than ridiculously inflated, will promote a quicker, more efficient negotiation process and result in faster resolution. Just the right thing to do.

Examples abound. The simple point is that when we pay attention to the little things, courtesy, honour, respect, we can prevent conflicts from arising; if we’re already involved in a dispute, we can help resolve it quicker and more effectively, and actually be able to look the other guy in the eye at the end of it. We feel better, they feel better, and maybe we can still do business together, or share an adjoining fence, or keep a friend.

Not bad for a little civility.

Posted on April 14th, 2011 by Renee