Do you remember what respects sounds and looks like? Appropriate, respectful, civil discourse seems to have lost its compass in democratic society. I was thrilled to read about a new book, Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power of Civility at Work and in Life, which was written by two former White House social secretaries, one for the Bushes and the other for the Obamas.

The bipartisan authors posit that our current president plays a role in our collective civil amnesia. Putting all political issues and arguments aside, I do not believe Donald Trump created this problem. I do think his leadership style has greatly exacerbated a viral trend that had already manifested, albeit below the surface, long before he ascended that Trump Tower escalator or climbed aboard Air Force One.

There is a convergence of cultural variables that have been at play for a long time. In terms of news, entertainment and texting (24-hour news, social media, reality TV) and the resulting personal cultural experience, we gravitate toward, curate, watch and read content that reinforces our assumptions, leanings and beliefs. Information overload makes selective retention a requirement for efficient content digestion, given the din of data that smacks us in the face on an hourly basis.

We have narrowed our frame of vision and it has constricted our curiosity about and tolerance for anything even one gradation in shade to the left or right of our value system and how we color our world. We also have a state of abbreviated and disappearing words that are being supplanted by little yellow circles and mini-me(s). Low tolerance, lack of curiosity and blunted words are a recipe for miscommunication and disagreement.

To counterbalance this erosive trend in communication and regain respectful composure and communication, I suggest with all that you do respect. 

Respect speaks with full-up words, sounds non-judgmental in word choice and tone, looks you in the eye, refrains from assumption, seeks the objective truth, listens actively, confirms understandings, takes responsibility and sincerely apologizes for bad behavior. Please put this last sentence on your recurring to do list. And with all due respect, thank you for reading.

Read the WaPo article that inspired this blog.

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