I am beating my drum again! I wholeheartedly agree with Professor Christine Porath’s recent Quartz article about the importance of civility in the professional space. She cites that feeling disrespected in the workplace negatively influences productivity and cost employers plenty. Take this theory one step outside the workplace, and it holds true as well. When I was in law school, I spent a year mediating civil (business and personal) disputes in the New York state courts in lower Manhattan.
I learned that humans will fall on the sword to gain or reinstate the respect they deserve from others. I repeatedly witnessed parties leaving thousands of dollars on the table in exchange for a sincere apology. As a mediator searching for dispute resolution, this frequent occurrence taught me to peel back disputes by looking for the source of disrespect, laying it out on the table and helping the parties find their way back to mutual respect. (I’m not a marriage counselor, but I bet that this strategy works with couples, too.)
Today, when I teach mediation, I encourage mediators-in-training to welcome parties into the mediation room as if welcoming guests to a dinner party. Hospitable environments are a clear path to dispute resolution. Porath is spot on mentioning the king of hospitality, Danny Meyer. Meyer says that patrons can taste disrespect and has a zero tolerance incivility policy among his staff. He knows that excellent food alone does not yield greatness. But great food and respectful treatment of ALL builds empires.
Meyer and his customers can taste disrespect in their food, and I can hear and see it in our culture. We live in a world with increasing intolerance for others’ personal belief systems, like religion and politics. No wonder incivility has seeped into our communication and behavior. Disrespect breeds disrespect; and so too, it follows that respect invites respect. I say invite respect to the table in your home, office and communication style. Our civilization depends on it.