Forget looks – if any one of us had a ton of power, how would we behave?

The news seems to be overloaded with important, influential people that the public has at one time –and a long time at that- greatly respected. Then one sunny day, a story unfolds where his or her utter lack of respect for others (particularly for someone especially dear) obliterates our opinion of them.

Could it be that despite the rise in awareness of the need for civility still hasn’t gotten around to some of those with power?

With the many definitions that civility encompasses, the meaning that civility is an outward-looking approach to life rather than inward sits right in my mind and heart. One single word simply sums it up- RESPECT. Being mindful of situational manners especially in combination with recognizing the differences in another person and their culture is another notable focus of civility. We can disagree; we can live our lives differently, but let’s handle it by communicating this respectfully.

So, how do we recognize respect? If character is the tree, manners are the shadow. Polite people are not necessarily civil. Civil people wear their values on their sleeve. Their manners- social and corporate- communicate what they stand for and it is obvious.

So You Want to be a Civility Trainer! was the subject of the AICI Annual Conference in Orlando during May 21’s evening’s session, and a well-attended one. Experts Yasmin Anderson-Smith MCRP, AICI CIP, CPBS and Lewena Bayer ICTC MCT, CC™ knew it would be, as the impact of Civility in today’s fast-paced world has them developing international respected training programs, receiving a U.S. Congressional citation, running a youth empowerment program Every Girl Can ™ and “Macaroni and Please”, garnering awards as spokespersons and authors as well as focusing on the long-term goal of an International Civility Conference. Yasmin is president of KYMS Image International LLC based in Washington D.C.  Lewena is the founder and executive director of the Center of Culture Competence and The Civility Experts Worldwide in Winnipeg, MB, Canada. She is also a recipient of the Canadian Civility Star Award.

During the session the ubiquitous “How do you think that landed?” was addressed as it commonly is a question asked to determine whether communication went well. Why? Because there is so much riding on the success of your communication. Lew shared the story of purposely impressing an important hotel manager who only made her gasp due to his awful conduct. She relied upon a code of conduct of 3 specific principles that define civility in order to deal with him: #1 respect, #2 restraint (personal) and #3 responsibility in order to maintain the dignity of the meeting.

There are misperceptions that Civility is only about etiquette. Some have said that it might have something to do with the military. Under the big umbrella of Civility lie good manners sprinkled with a heavy dose of feelings and concern about the comfort of others, plus much, much more. “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you”, practice humanity and embrace other cultures with openness are the working fundamentals of civility.

What does civility have to do with image consulting-alot! To really embrace Civility, you acknowledge that the common thread is that both Civility trainers and Image Consultants share the common goal which is to provide a meaningful, positive experience. There are several considerations the image consultant can ponder in approaching teaching civility:

  1. What approach suits your training style?
  2. Who is your audience?
  3. How will you portray the situational context i.e. will you be persuasive but not preachy?
  4. Which type of specialist will you describe yourself as:
    a. Consultant
    b. Coach
    c. Trainer
    d. Expert
  5. What will set you apart from the growing numbers of civility trainers out there?

You will build your own credibility in the civility business through a combination of continuous learning, consistent effort to maintain high personal and professional standards, and constant attention to real-life applications and benefits of civility to others. For more reading and resources about civility, I recommend The Power of Civility, Yasmin Anderson-Smith, Lew Bayer et al, Choose Civility and Civility Solutions by Dr. P. Forni, and Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey.

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2 responses to “Forget looks – if any one of us had a ton of power, how would we behave?

  1. I would definitely agree with the ideas behind this blog entry. I believe that as our culture changes, our values change as well, especially in America. No longer do we value inner beauty, or natural beauty. It seems as though Americans put their values in projecting a very bold self-image; never being satisfied with their looks (never-mind their attitudes or ways of living).

    Getting back to the basics is a great way to better yourself as a person, and a part of the community. It is extremely important to possess respect, a civil outlook and noble character traits… because that is beauty in itself.

    In our society today- communication makes the world go round. It’s effective and very important- we are essentially judged by our communication skills or lack thereof. Your civility determines the way you communicate with others which in turn determines the type of person you portray yourself as…. that’s pretty important.

    Whether casual or corporate- civility can make or break who you are.

  2. Great post. Whether in business or social settings, life is all about relationships. There is no relationship without communication unless you are living under a rock on a deserted island. Civility gives us a set of tools to help build positive relationships in work, family and community regardless of our differences with others. It helps shape the words we use to relate to one another. Our words have different meanings depending in culture, gender, age, nationality and other factors. I agree that we have become a society where the qualityof our communication seems to be less focused on caring about the feelings and comfort of others. Civility helps us build quality and credibility in our relationships.

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