There’s a terrific scene in the movie Blast From the Past. Brendan Fraser plays a young man who spent most of his life below ground in a bomb shelter, with only his parents as companions/models/teachers.
Here’s the scene (from the script):
You know, I asked him about that (about his perfect manners). And he said that good manners are a way we have of showing other people that we respect them. See, you’d eat like a slob if you were alone, but since another human being is present, you show that person respect by going to the trouble of having proper manners. I didn’t know that. I thought it was a way of appearing superior. (then) Know what else he told me?
…Turns out, the short and very simple definition of a gentleman or a lady is: someone always attempts to make the people around him or her feel as comfortable as possible. That’s it! If you don’t do that, nothing else matters. The cars, the clothes, the houses…
Where did he get all that information?
From the oddest place. His parent’s told him. I don’t think I got that memo.
I thought of this scene recently when Bob Morris, our blogging colleague, reviewed a book on civility in his post: Book Review: The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It.
This is a good week to think about such a topic. Last night, for the first time in my lifetime, a sitting member of congress yelled out at the President in the middle of his speech to both houses of Congress. It was unprecedented, and members of both parties denounced it immediately. The member of Congress has apologized, but the message is clear – this is truly now the era of incivility. Such an act was simply unconscionable – and yet, sadly, maybe not so surprising.
Here’s the question for this blog: is incivility good business? I hope not. Consider this quote from Mary Kay Ash from her book, The Mary Kay Way: Timeless Principles from America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur:
Every person is special! I sincerely believe this. Each of us wants to feel good about himself or herself, but to me it is just as important to make others feel the same way. Whenever I meet someone, I try to imagine him or her wearing an invisible sign that says: MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT! I respond to this sign immediately, and it works wonders.
I once waited in a long reception line to shake hands with the company’s sales manager, only to have him treat me as if I didn’t exist. I’m sure he didn’t remember the incident; in fact, he probably was never aware of how much he had hurt me. Yet, after all these years, I still remember – so it obviously had a powerful impact on me. I learned an important lesson about people that day which I have never forgotten: No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important!
Civility really is simply the practice of good manners. And, as the movie says, good manners are a sign of respect. Respect – good manners… these are genuine business essentials in an increasingly rude world.
Civility beats incivility in every way. And civility flows from respect, from a desire to help make the other person feel respected, feel accepted, feel important. Rudeness and incivility seem like very bad business stances, don’t you think?