Can We Have Civility

Can we have civility when we don’t agree on what’s true and what’s not?

When we hold on to our worldviews, and when they become more than merely window dressing, and they become integrated into our overall identities, we can find it incredibly difficult to engage with others civilly.

So, we resort to not talking, talking about mere banalities, or talking about distractions that mean nothing at all.

When we are unwilling to hear different perspectives on the facts that we hold dear, we lose the ability to be flexible when the fundamentals that underlie those facts change.

As fundamentals always do.

When we are unwilling to acknowledge that there might be different outcomes to difficulties, conflicts, and competitions that might just be as good for just as many people as the outcomes that we favor, then we become concretely encased in the pursuit of outcomes.

And everything else be damned.

Can we have civility if we are unable, unwilling, and incapable, of going outside of our worldviews, perspectives, and preferred outcomes toward what another person may value?

When we are wedded tighter to the secure arrogance that theater, spectacle, and display inevitably provide, rather than being wedded inexorably to humility, grace, and forgiveness, we will be constantly surprised by what outcome “wins” and what outcome “loses.”

And we will allow our capacity to engage in civility to erode.

When we are more concerned with the freedom to be expressive, rather than the responsibility of soberly and judiciously informing another party of the truth, then we will allow ourselves to fall into incivility.

And our communication culture will erode into communication anarchy.

Can we have civility in the process of moving toward communication anarchy?

Conflicts—based in values, identities, worldviews, and emotions—are sure to become more damaging and deleterious when we cannot separate far enough from people whose values, identities, worldviews, and emotions, (and maybe even existence) we find to be odious above all else.

The Top 3 Hard Things

The hard things are the very things that appear easy.

Pay Attention

  • Active listening seems easy. It’s easy to be engaged, totally focused on the content of a conversation or an interaction. It’s easy to pay close attention to what another person is saying, or doing, in the moment.
  • Active engagement is the easiest thing in the world. It’s easy to be engaged with a situation, a conversation, or a person whom we love and care about.
  • Active participation with your life, with another person’s life or with a critical situation is the easiest thing in the world.

But, it turns out, in a world of fractured attention spans, media distractions and fancy technical tools, attention, engagement and activity come at an embarrassingly high premium.

And we all make private choices (reflected publicly in our social media posting choices) about what events, people and places we give the most precious resource that we have–our attention–and then, when the world “explodes” the first question we ask is “Why didn’t I know about this?”

Well, we could have paid attention and could have known, if we had really wanted to…right….?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

Unbundled Civility

Let’s have an honest talk about the good old days.

On Civility and Discourse

And, please bear with us. This is going to go a little long.

Civility and discourse seem to be on the wane as the instantaneous nature of communication becomes more and more ubiquitous in our everyday lives.

It appears as though society has traded civility, good manners, good breeding and other elements of moral and Godly character, for an increase in perceived authenticity, the freedom to air our “dirty laundry,” and unload embarrassing baggage, not only on social media, but increasingly in the workplace, the church and the school.

Along with this comes the exchange of grace and forgiveness for the freedom to judge any mismatch of words and deeds, to take measure and revel in spectacle.

Thus, incivility becomes a new form of pornography—briefly gratifying when we are being “true to ourselves” and emotionally “authentic” at the workplace meeting table–but leaving behind a wake of emotional, psychological and moral damage upon others.

George Washington diligently copied in school 110 maxims for proper behavior, that were initially hand written and passed down from Jesuit scholars in the 16th century and were titled Biensance de la Conversation entre le Hommes (Decency of Conversation among Men).

They come from a time before the 21st century, when social conduct was considered more than just a sign of good breeding.  Proper social conduct then, was part of the pavement on the road to success, along with grit, conscientiousness and perseverance.

But what about now?

Culture is changing because of three things:

  • The speed of our communication
  • The irreverence of our communication
  • The disruption of long standing social mores

The conflicts of the 21st century in organizations of all kinds, will be between the vocal minority (also composed of the silent majority) who will hold to the rules of civility in discourse, no matter what the platform.

And those who will appear to be the majority (who may in fact be in the minority) who will throw the rules out in favor of the illusion of freedom, authenticity and the easy path.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: