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Choosing Civility: In the End Only Kindness Matters

There are people in this world like me. We gush. We smile. We say thank you a million times. We apologize a million times. We want people to know that we care. We RSVP. We send thank you notes. We return phone calls and e-mails. We let people into traffic. And we go out of our way to be polite to others.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re a dying breed. The busier we all get and the more we take on, the less we tend to think of others. All of a sudden we’re more important than other people. We frown. We have a sharp edge to our voice. We cut people off when they’re talking. We ignore our co-workers in the hallway instead of smiling. We pay more attention to our Blackberry than the person sitting across from us at lunch. We’re chronically late. And worst of all – we are just plain rude.

I am convinced there are people who have an insulting comment on the tip of their tongue – ready to fire it off at any time. I sometimes want to put my finger up and say, “Hold on a minute. Think about what you just said to me. Back up and say it in another way.” Communication is all about what you say and how you say it. It’s not one or the other, it is both.

The bottom line is that words have so much power – the power to build people up, and the power to tear people down. Many people do not agree with each other. There are five generations of people out there who have different thoughts, ideas, experiences and personality types. But I’m not sure how that gives us permission to be unkind.

A self-admitted sensitive person, I have found myself feeling pretty awful if somebody makes a comment to me that could’ve been said so much differently. It’s like a slap in the face. They might as well just say “I have absolutely no respect for you.” People say, “just kidding” to soften the blow. Who are these people trying to fool? We all know the difference between a joke, an insult and a compliment.

On a recent “Oprah Winfrey Show” episode, author Dr. P.M. Forni, who wrote “Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct,” said that everyone can improve the quality of their relationships and lives by choosing to be more considerate, courteous and polite.

For the past decade, Dr. Forni – a professor at Johns Hopkins University – has been on a mission to promote gracious behavior. “The quality of our lives is about treating each other well in every situation. We are all the trustees of one another’s happiness and well-being in life,” he says.

In “Choosing Civility,” Dr. Forni uses a quote from motivational speaker Peggy Tabor Millin – “We never touch people so lightly that we do not leave a trace.”

We all learned “The Golden Rule” in kindergarten, but how many of us actually practice it? We’re entitled to a bad day, but please remember to “be kind to others, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.” Our words and actions do affect other people – much, much more than we realize.

It’s not too late to change. Smile a little more. Choose your statements a little more carefully. And if something mean comes out of your mouth, take it back as soon as possible. Think of something nice to do for somebody else – or go a little deeper – be kinder to yourself. None of us are perfect, but it wouldn’t hurt to work at it a little every day. It will make a huge difference in all of our lives.

Civility – in any situation – should be the only option you choose.

><(("> Mandy Stark

Mandy is a ><(("> Friend of Catch Your Limit, a marketing firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To contact Mandy email her at or to learn more about Catch Your Limit, visit

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