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When Civility Matters

March 12, 2012  |  by John Heithaus

I’m sure many of us have been involved in a situation where someone involved in a conversation, business transaction or drive-time incident did not act in a civil manner.

I travel a good deal over the US and I find, in spite of stereotypes, that civility is lacking wherever I go. Civility is defined as “authentic respect for others requiring time, presence, a willingness to engage in genuine discourse, and an intention to seek common ground” (Dr. C.C. Clark, Boise St. University).

Sara Hacala’s great new book Saving Civility: 52 Ways to Tame Rude, Crude and Attitude for a Polite Planet ( provides a solid toolkit for reversing trends of bad behavior and restoring civility back into our daily lives. She says, for example, “regardless of your age, make a habit of practicing kindness, generosity and gratitude.” And the payoff for these folks is they live “longer, healthier and happier lives” as an added bonus, according to Ms. Hacala.

It’s always been impressive to me, in over thirty years in the business, that many of the most successful real estate professionals I encounter are civil, community oriented and examples of decorum for all to follow.

Both Clark and Halaca believe that we can change the current course of incivility — and demand that our elected officials (and candidates running for office) also follow suit. Check out Halaca’s book at; I’ve just ordered a copy for my reading list and hope to learn from it and apply the lessons.

What do you all think? Is civility on the decline in the Baltimore/DC Metro area? If so, what can we do to make a difference?

Posted in Blog, Featured, MRIS CMO Insights

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5 responses to “When Civility Matters”

  1. Tom Woolfolk says:

    I think we find what we look for. A good first step to improve this state of affairs is to cultivate and practice civility as individuals. Then, politely but firmly require it of those we deal with.

  2. I think Tom is absolutely correct in that we find what we look for. I also think, generally speaking, that we get treated the way we treat others and if we are civil to everyone we meet, more people in any encounter, will be civil to us. It is true that more people seem to be uncivil to one another these days–just look at the really unacceptable behavior of politicians– but some of that is the proverbial chicken and egg situation and responding with uncivil behavior to the less nice behavior of someone else,we simply perpetuate the chain. I think most (but I understand, not all) people appreciate being respected and treated well and we never know who will emulate our better behavior. It’s worth a try!

  3. Lisa Burrow says:

    I am definately seeing this trend. I'm hitting my 5 year mark in real estate, but been in sales and marketing on and off for years. I though have seen a shift in just the last 5 years. There is a disrespect for others time, expecting things for free, and a lack of respect for those in charge or those of knowledge. I attribute some of this to the internet and the quick access to information on the web. There seems to be a trend of the gen y's not trusting what we say as professionals and questioning every thing we say, like we arent to be trusted. I though dont see this in generations my age and above..Im 43.. Very polite, respectful of time and offering to pay and/or never complaining about paying for things. Its a generation issue I feel and has been caused by the internet as well as dual working families and single households. I've thought about how I can fix this and honestly I don't know the asnwer to I feel a lot is from the breakdown of the Amerian family splitting up, less people getting married and the mass information on the net..
    Lisa Burrow, Realtor

  4. Gloria Burn says:

    Attitude is everything. Treating people the way we want to be treated in any situation, usually brings out the best possible outcome personally and professionally. We may not be able to fix how others behave but we can control how we as individuals react by looking for something positive to say or do.

  5. Michael Lamont says:

    Uncivil behavior is usually a symptom of someone who is generally dissatisfied or unhappy with their current circumstances. As evidenced by the simple writing of this article, it is getting worse. Our leadership in Washington has embarked on a mission to actively create civil unrest, dividing the haves and the have nots. I would say Washington leadership is succeeding. The entitlement mentality being nurtured as never before, is creating an unease usually felt by someone who is being robbed. It angers them tremendously. In response to a previous comment, I would like to suggest that wanting to be informed is not a symptom of disrespect or uncivil behavior. Being exasperated that someone is making inquiry about your plans for their home (the largest investment most folks will ever make), should be seen as an opportunity to show your expertise…….unless its not. That would explain your desire for their blind trust.

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