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standard July 17, 2014 Leave a response

77 percent of Americans believe we are becoming ruder. Three out of four people have witnessed an argument on social media. One in five in the U.S. workforce have been bullied by their coworkers. 60 percent of Americans confess to be uncivil.

This also reflects in our politics – 80 percent of Americans consider politician campaigns to be uncivil. 67 percent of Americans did not vote for a candidate simply because they were rude.

Whether or not we are becoming more or less civil is irrelevant. What is relevant is that being polite to people is more surprising than people being rude.

I recently had to call my wireless provider because of a problem with my bill, it was a lot higher than I expected. The customer service representative seemed caught off-guard* when I made polite chitchat, said “please” and “thank you” and was overall polite. He was expecting me to be upset and snippy.

*Either that, or he’d never heard anyone say “y’all” before. Doubtful, since he’s based in Alabama.

That’s a bit sad, isn’t it?

It costs me nothing to say “please” and “thank you,” and be polite, even when I’m annoyed about my bill. It’s not his fault my bill was wrong, it was just a mistake, and he fixed it easily. Just like it’s not the cashier’s fault when a product rings up wrong, or a power outage caused my cable to go out.

“You can get through life with bad manners, but it’s easier with good manners.” — Lillian Gish

I’ve worked in customer service-type jobs my entire career, and am generally unflappable when it comes to dealing with rude customers (cursing, death threats, insults, etc.). I remain polite,friendly, listening to their concerns, and trying to fix them the best I can. There are times, though, when a customer steps across the line, but even then, I am never rude. I go from polite and perky to simply polite. It’s quite noticeable, according to my old coworkers.

People say those who work in customer service-type jobs, retail, waitressing, fast food, etc., are generally more polite because they’ve had to deal with the general public. That’s not true at all. I’ve seen rude former cashiers, and non-retail peeps treat others with the utmost courtesy.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” — James D. Miles

I lose respect for friends that are discourteous to customer service folks, those that talk down to cashiers, refuse to tip (even when the service was excellent), or think themselves better than those who work retail.

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However, there is a bright side: 67 percent of people find President Obama civil, compared to 28 percent who do not. 85 percent of us feel the world would be a better place if we said “please” and “thank you” more often. 25 percent of Americans know their mailman’s first name.

I’m not perfect when it comes to manners – I’ve been known to gesture rudely to drivers who cut me off and nearly cause an accident, I’ve been rude to people close to me, and I have acted uncivilly to an obnoxious cashier.

So what can we do to improve our civility, besides saying “please” and “thank you?”

According to a recent Vanity Fair poll, people wish others would:

  • Stop texting and emailing during a meal
  • Write more handwritten notes
  • Send a condolence card or email when someone dies
  • Stop breaking up with people on Facebook

Do you think this would help? What do you think we could do to be more civil to each other? Is this something we should instill in our children from a young age, or lead by example?

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Congrats! You made it this far, here’s a baby elephant!

Sources and random links:

Header image // Brittany H.

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