Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is Showing Disappointment Civil?

Does being civil mean we have to always be agreeable and accommodating?

While “being civil” can indicate “a person or organization marked by benevolence”, it’s more commonly understood that being civil is adhering to the norms of polite social intercourse and not deficient in common courtesy; "After their disagreement, their relations were civil though not cordial."

Can a person express disappointment or dissatisfaction then and still be civil?

While being warm and friendly goes a long way towards building interpersonal relationships, and benevolence and random acts of kindness are good for the soul, one can be firm and respectful and still be civil.

In my very first blog, “Turn The Other Cheek” I talked about how being civil isn’t about letting someone plow over you, but it's about "asserting one's equality, modeling proper behavior instead of reflecting back anger, and giving the other person the opportunity and space to recognize their misdeeds and make a change."

Does that mean it’s okay to flip someone off because they pulled in front of you feel they didn’t give you enough space? No, that isn’t polite and that would be "deficient in common courtesy". It does mean you can honk to let them know they did something that you didn’t feel is civil or considerate. When that driver realizes that people keep honking at him or her, then perhaps he or she will realize they have a green tail*.

   * The Green Tail

  • If someone says you have a green tail, the person is crazy.
  • If two people say you have a green tail, it is a conspiracy.
  • If seven people say you have a green tail, then turn around and look!

On the other hand, if you find yourself honking at a lot of people, then perhaps you have to ask yourself if you have the green tail*.

This moves me to settle on the opinion that showing disappointment or dissatisfaction (appropriately) is not just civil but perhaps our inherent civic responsibility – to give each other valuable feedback and awareness of civility and civic virtue (see my blog "What is Civility?) in order to do our part in making this world a better place.

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