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May 29, 2008

Is a disaster required to produce civility?

tornado Parkersburg2008.jpg
Site of the Sinclair Elevator complex two miles east of Parkersburg, Iowa
Photo supplied by Pat Derdzinski, Butler County Extension Education Director

Natural disasters do bring out the best in the people.
It can be a tornado with 200 mile per hour winds as this one, a wildfire, flood, hurricane or earthquake.

It’s interesting that the high school in Parkersburg is where many are carting away the salvageable text books, athletic gear and other school paraphernalia. The destroyed community building is a center of attention. And the people who are directing the work seem to be the community leaders, those people who always care about others and are respected by the townspeople.

The word civility ties to city and society, to be good citizens and good neighbors.
So yes, sometimes it takes disasters to produce civility. We realize the material possessions of life don’t matter. The power or position we hold at work doesn’t matter.

To be alive, to belong to a community and to have caring leaders—those are the things that are important.

May 28, 2008

Will civility become a movement?

The word ‘civility’ gets mentioned frequently during national political campaigns. But those will end in less than six months.

Professor P.M. Forni from Johns Hopkins University, author of ‘Choosing Civility’, has another book due out in June. James, a librarian in Frederick, Maryland, posted a blog entry about Forni’s talk at a library conference. See James' Thangs

Howard County in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. region has been emphasizing civility and could be the starting point of a movement. (Choose Civility in Howard County)

James mentions social intelligence. I listened to part of Daniel Goleman’s book ‘Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships’ on a road trip several weeks ago and decided I needed to own the book. Right now what sticks in my mind is the ‘Dark Triad’ (the narcissist, the Machiavellian and the psychopath) but there’s good news. “We humans have a built-in bias toward empathy, cooperation and altruism—provided we develop the social intelligence to nurture these capacities in ourselves and others.” Goleman is known for his bestseller ‘Emotional Intelligence’.

Back to why I asked the movement question. I’m reading “The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World’. This book cites movements that have become mainstream. From that book jacket “The Cultural Creatives care deeply about ecology and saving the planet, about relationships, peace and social justice, about self-actualization, spirituality and self expression.”

My hope that civility will become a movement was reinforced this weekend when I read ‘Behavioral Covenants in Congregations: A Handbook for Honoring Differences’. Author Gilbert Rendle cites work by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe that gives our national history in the cycle of generations. We should be in crisis phase now. This book is about relationships and civility in church and synagogue life.

I think many of us long to leave the isolation and arrogance of individualism and move on to civility, deep respect for others as we work together. Civility should be a movement that goes mainstream.

May 22, 2008

No regrets

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.
--Sydney Harris, American journalist and author (1917-1986)

It’s a three-day weekend for most of us.
1. Leave work at work.
2. Slow down. Rethink spending the weekend devoted to the upkeep of lawn and garden, the house task list, the frantic rush to get somewhere (anywhere).
3. Pause long enough to remember the meaning of Memorial Day---paying tribute and relationships.

Memorial Day began as a time to honor fallen veterans. Today we remember any loved ones who have died.

I love walking cemeteries because it reminds me of my childhood Memorial Days when mom cut peonies and irises, put them in saved Miracle Whip jars that had been properly washed and the labels removed. Then she’d dig holes with an old butcher knife near numerous graves and leave the jars of flowers. Along the way she’d explain how the person was related and reminisce about that person.

I love walking cemeteries because I’ve done it in so many states in my genealogy hunts. It’s entertaining to imagine what life was like for those people and sometimes it’s really sad to look at graves of children buried near the parents.

Do some civil things so you can work toward ‘no regrets’

Call a relative or friend. Walk around the cemetery with a watering can and give those wilting flowers a drink on a grave of some unknown person. Write a letter. Read for pleasure. Enjoy nature. Spend time with people. Spend time alone. Connect in your mind with those who have gone, either from earth or from your life. Enjoy your three-day weekend.

May 20, 2008

The intrigue of humility

One Monday my book club discussed ‘The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town’ by John Grisham. It’s Grisham's first work of nonfiction. It focuses on the tragedy of Ron Williamson, a baseball hero from a small town in Oklahoma. Williamson became a dissolute, mentally unstable Major League washout put on death row for a hometown rape and murder he did not commit.

In typical understated fashion, Allen, one of the book club members, said, “Many mistakes can be made when you have arrogance and incompetence.” He was talking about the law enforcement officers, the attorneys and the judges involved in the original trials in Ada, Oklahoma.

The minute Allen said that, I thought what a terrific observation of far more than this book. Allen is a distinguished professor of animal science but he won’t tell you that. If I had to describe him in three words, I would say smart, humble and kind.

We probably all know arrogance and incompetence too well so let’s focus on humility, a component of civility.

What is humility?
Modest and unassuming in attitude and behavior about one's status or accomplishments
A quality expressed by a person who doesn't feel it necessary to talk about his accomplishments or experiences. A humble person isn't concerned about himself but shows respect and deference towards others.

I think the humble often are the first to believe there is always more to contemplate and learn. They tend to be really interesting people because they are curious and because you don’t know everything about them. And they’re the ones I want to be around at work and everywhere, actually.

How many humble people do you know? Would anyone describe you as humble?

May 15, 2008

Civility defined by an anger management specialist

Civility, an Emerging Area of Specialization in Emotional Intelligence
This from the May 8 post on the blog Anger Management ala George Anderson

What is civility?

Civility is behavior in public that demonstrates respect for others and that entails curtailing one’s own immediate self-interest, when appropriate.

Civility is made up of three elements
• Civility is the common language for communicating respect for others and their views (the importance is in the gestures of respect more than the outcome of the behavior);
• Civility toward strangers requires that we behave in certain ways toward people who may mean nothing to us, and whom we are unlikely ever to encounter again, in the interest of hearing their thoughts; and,
• Civility involves holding back in the pursuit of one’s own immediate self-interest – we desist from doing what would be most pleasing to us for the sake of harmonious civil discourse with others, even strangers.

The author adds this: Daniel Goleman, the preeminent expert on Emotional Intelligence, offers the following tips on civility:
• “Conduct yourself with integrity, courtesy, and respect toward fellow members of our community”;
• “Hold individuals accountable for their actions”; and
• “Promote an environment where individuals feel safe and supported.”


May 14, 2008

Choose Civility in Howard County

From the Baltimore Sun--
People have taken more than 35,000 of the green magnetic reminders to "Choose Civility," and displayed them throughout the county on automobiles, refrigerators and file cabinets.

Now campaign leaders are planning to expand the effort with a free public symposium that will focus on the need for civility in all aspects of life.

"It is the notion that we are a human family...
The quality of our lives is determined to a great extent by the quality of our relationships,"
said Valerie Gross, executive director of the Howard County Library, which is the lead partner for the campaign.

The symposium has four sessions
Promoting Civility in Your Neighborhood
Why Looking Out for No. 1 Doesn't Work
Being Safe and Sensible in Cyberspace
Civility in the Workplace

Symposium organizers plan to highlight a message, as outlined in the book Seasons of Life by author Jeffrey Marx: "At the end of our life, we ought to be able to look back and know that somehow the world was a better place because we lived, we loved, we were other-centered, other-focused."

May 9, 2008 Baltimore Sun
Civility: More than a bumper sticker

April 22, 2008 Washington Post
Civil Obedience: Local Book Inspires Seminars, Classes (background on the Choose Civility campaign)

May 13, 2008

Rapport is a relationship in harmony

A relation characterized by sympathetic understanding, emotional affinity and mutual trust and respect. The strongest relationships of deep rapport have no geographical or time boundaries. They continue for years and span miles.

Natural rapport
It’s comfortable. True rapport is engaging because there are always new thoughts and ideas to explore. I think of it as pleasurable ease. You can be near another and neither feels you have to talk. Yet when you’ve not talked for some time, the conversation is spontaneous. Natural rapport is a rare gift.

Instant rapport
You immediately feel a connection with someone. You feel you have known this person for years and can extend trust. Sometimes that holds true as you get to know the person better. Sometimes the initial connection is an illusion; someone tries to make a connection thinking he or she can profit from a relationship with you.

Building rapport
You can build rapport in the workplace with components of civility—respect, empathetic listening, curiosity and humility. It’s a mutually beneficial environment in which you build relationships with appreciation for differences and in spite of them.

“The best way to build good team work and rapport with coworkers is through the four Cs—commonalities, connectivity, communication and collaboration.”
Building Solid Work Relationships
Developing Rapport with Co-Workers
© Deborah S. Hildebrand, Nov 5, 2007

“Some people think rapport is facilitated with an insincere interest in others or pretending to have similar interests. Others may think they are building rapport with a client by always agreeing with them, or being a “yes” person, and others will define rapport as changing their opinion to match their managers, or being over enthusiastic or pandering to them. None of these notions is correct.”
How to Define Professional Relationships in Rapport
By Geoffrey Ronning

“What exactly is rapport, that essential leaderhip skill? ….The way in which you interact with others has a major bearing on your success as an influencer. Ingredients for successful influence: trust, openness, comfort, acceptance, empathy, flexibility, something in common, shared understanding.”
How To Develop Rapport More Easily
by Jonathan Farrington, July 22, 2007

May 08, 2008

How long you can extend simple, wide-eyed trust? 15 questions

kid (low res).jpg
All of us have dealt with trust and mistrust since childhood. Whom could you trust? Your life experiences shape your capacity and willingness to risk trusting others. Has extending trust been misplaced or validated?

The balance between hope and vulnerability
What is your state of readiness for unguarded interaction? If you extend trust, that’s hope. You hope a person has the competence and civility to help everyone in the organization succeed. Subsequent actions, words and decisions build or erode trust. When you believe you are vulnerable and will be hurt, trust erodes.

Trust is workplace currency
People make deposits that build trust and withdrawals that erode trust.
Some questions to gauge trustworthiness
1. How quickly and publicly does this person judge people, decisions and work?
2. Does he listen and is the listening sensitive and empathetic? The most successful and influential people
3. Does she show appreciation or take credit for others’ work?
4. Does he micromanage? Micromanagement (command and control)
5. Does this person accept failure as human and learn from failure?
6. Does he have integrity? He believes in something, professes it and acts on it. Integrity if more than honesty
7. Is her assistance helpful or manipulative?
8. Does this person ask questions that contribute to understanding and clarification?
9. Does she blame others?
10. Is communication truthful, timely and as complete as possible?
11. Is he assertive, confronting problems when they arise?
12. Does she pander to her supervisor(s)?
13. Is this person unpredictable? Unpredictability evaporates loyalty
14. Does he respect people?
and my number one question---
15. Does he do things that benefit others and the organization even when it’s not in his self-interest?

The answers help shape perceptions of competence, intentions and trustworthiness
We are each unique in how vulnerable we’re willing to be and just where our tipping point lies. We have to face fundamental questions---
Do I like being cynical and angry or optimistic and happy?
How can I make the best possible situation of this relationship?
What can I trust about this person?

It’s all workplace currency. You’ve undoubtedly thought about other people as you read the questions. Now ask the questions of yourself. Do your words and actions promote or erode trust?

How do you gauge trustworthiness?

References on trust relationships
Trust Rules: The Most Important Secret About Trust
We lose in every way when we lose trust

May 07, 2008

New blog on bullying from Calgary

As of the end of April, an entry on how to stop bullying is #1 on the top 10 most visited Civility in the Workplace blog posts.

It’s sad so many people are being bullied.
It’s good people are recognizing bullying.

For more than a year, I’ve subscribed to Bully Free Monthly coming out of Canada. Last month the author expanded to a blog and the amount of information has blossomed.

Lots of information on one site, http://www.BullyFreeAtWork.com/blog

I’ve added it to my resource list on this blog’s main page too.

May 06, 2008

Jump-starting a new job

Typically you think about how an organization prepares to welcome a new employee by having a computer ready and a schedule of orientation meetings. I’ve just witnessed the other side—a new employee who jump-started a job by his preparation and approach.

The new employee is an interim minister for a congregation of 350 that has seven governing boards. Churches, in my experience, have turf battles and members with different passions….and history. I think you can equate that to many offices, departments, organizations. In the past several weeks, I’ve observed this man approach his new job with professionalism and civility.

Professional approach
He started preparation before he went on the payroll. He requested a list of documents several weeks before he reported to work. He silently observed relationships and interactions at worship services and several workshops…and there he probably had an advantage over most jobs.

Approaching the job with civility
When he officially began this job, he didn’t offer opinions or voice assumptions but asked insightful questions. On his second day at work, he asked me a difficult question, ‘Who are the five most influential people in your congregation?’ My answer, when I had thought about it long enough, was probably how you’d answer for many work places. The most influential do not necessarily hold positions you assume would assure influence. The people I named had earned respect for their leadership exhibited by their work, passion and levelheaded, insightful thinking.

Questions that benefit the organization

If you are receptive to the questions of a new employee, you can look at your organization anew. Who's in charge of what? Why are things the way they are? Who can help explain this? Do you do that? When you try to answer those questions, you see problem areas that were previously invisible to you.

Maybe I should have titled this ‘instant trust and rapport’ because that’s my assessment of how he jump-started this job.

(Trust and rapport are powerful---posts to follow.)

May 01, 2008

Can you be a Learner rather than a Judger all the time?

No. Accept that. Free yourself by accepting Judger is a part of you…but practice Learner.

Every one of us has these two mindsets…the only issue being which one we choose at any given moment. At any time ask, ‘Am I in Judger? How else can I think about this? Where would I like to be?’

In ‘Change Your Questions, Change Your Life’, Marilee Adams has a Choice Map that shows the Judger path means automatic reactions, is blame-focused and features win-lose situations. The Learner path leads to thoughtful choices, is solution-focused and features win-win situations.

The switching lane is where you rescue questions or course-correct questions

Notice the questions are in first person---‘I, my’.
Is this what I want to feel?
Is this what I want to be doing?
What’s my choice right now?
What humor can I find in the situation?

What assumptions am I making? What are the facts?
False or incomplete information can get you in a lot of trouble. Assumptions may be invisible chains to the past that block freedom of choice and action for the future. To make an assumption is to presume something is true without verifying it. What am I assuming about myself, about others, based on past experiences, about available resources, limitations, circumstances?

Switch to observer
When you get into a challenging situation and have an impulse to act or express a feeling, step into observer mode. Remind yourself that, just as with a ringing phone, you do not have to ‘answer’ those impulses. You can watch. Then when you take action, you can be more thoughtful, strategic and mindful of potential consequences.

Work to develop ways to make intentional, conscious choices rather than being controlled by events around you. These are essential leadership qualities.

Think like a Learner
It’s dealing with what happens rather than making judgments about what has happened. A Judger can be self-righteous, arrogant and defensive.

Shaping your questions into Learner questions is a core self-management skill, a skill of civility, one you apply to yourself and in your relationships with others.

Adams writes “Share this material with others. Feel free to download some of the QuestionThinking tools. You can print out copies of these tools to share with friends, family and colleagues. Put them on your refrigerator door and let them stimulate conversation with family members. Put them up at work, or bring copies with you to a group or team meeting where QuestionThinking might be useful.” The tools include the Choice Map and The Top 12 Questions for Success at www.InquiryInstitute.com.