The Two Sides of Incivility

Last week I attended a course called Crucial Conversations, which is based on the NY Times Best Selling book of the same name. It was a great training and worth the time investment.

As I took some time to go back through the material this week, it really came home to me how their concept of communication styles under stress provides a great way to describe the two sides of incivility.

At the very beginning of the training, we spent some time talking about how we typically respond to crucial conversations. On one hand you have silence, on the other violence. Incivility really works the same way. There are those violent acts of incivility, like the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona. I would also add the loud outbursts of political shouting that we have seen occur at town hall meetings, rallies, and on the radio. These acts are easy to see and often grab the headlines.

But then there is the other side of incivility, the silent side. The withholding of information; the lack of respect for another human being; people acting in bad faith in business, politics, marriage, etc.; promises made with no intent keep them; or promises made without the ability to keep them. These acts of incivility are just as damaging to our society because the undermine the kind of trust that is necessary for a civil society to thrive.

In Crucial Conversations, I believe we’ve found a great new way to further the discussion about “Political Civility” really is and how we might go about reaching such a lofty, but important goal.

Silence or Violence – which one describes you?

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