Incivility is on the rise throughout the United States. In a study conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research, 75% of Americans believe incivility has reached “crisis levels,” while 73% suspect the US is “losing stature as a civil nation.” An astounding 84% of Americans have personally experienced some form of incivility while either driving, shopping, or surfing the net. Although civility is scarce nowadays, Americans can easily describe what it means to them. According to the study, Americans define civility as “polite and respectful conduct and expression.” But what is fueling this incivility epidemic in our nation?
Without a doubt, the 2016 presidential campaign challenged public discourse and further divided an already fragmented nation. Most Americans believe our politicians are to blame because of their boorish remarks towards one another and the public. However, they also believe our media channels — whether that be CNN, Vice News, or Facebook — also fail to defuse incivility. Many Americans feel it further perpetuates it by spotlighting all that is vile and dishonorable (hi Donald!) and not focusing on other, more pressing issues. Therefore, it’s no surprise we are left feeling hopeless, anxious, and divided rather than being called upon to come together and make our collective voices heard.
So how can we cross over to the other side of incivility — where compassion, empathy, and respect reside? Here are five ways we can practice civility (and inspire others to do the same) in our day-to-day life:
1 | Media detox —
Despite what our media outlets portray, we are living in the safest time in history. Because our traditional media channels mostly report negative and disheartening stories, it’s important that we limit our exposure. Or even better, cut it out completely. Everything we listen to, read, and/or watch affects us — and then we project it onto others whether we realize it or not. Rather than watching the headlines on CNN, reading Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, or scrolling through Facebook status wars, try finding more positive media outlets. Watch TED Talks, listen to Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday podcast, read self-help books… you’ll be radiating positivity and compassion within no time.
2 | Meditate and search for your inner purpose —
Sit down and meditate in silence everyday… even if it’s only for five minutes. Pop in earplugs and ask yourself “Who am I?” The benefits are tremendous! Anxiety, depression, and emotional reactivity decrease, while happiness, patience, and self-love increase. When we surrender ourselves to the present moment in complete silence and stillness, meditation reveals the best parts of ourselves and teaches us to love — the good, the bad, and the ugly. We learn to let go of internal and external negativity with more ease. We realize that each one of us is born with unique gifts and that these gifts are meant to be shared with others. Discovering and fulfilling our inner purpose is truly the secret ingredient to happiness. And, as we all know, happiness is contagious.
3 | Don’t be afraid to have meaningful conversations —
Stop trying to be politically correct all the time! We need to speak our truth. No, I am not condoning that individuals say whatever racist, sexist, homophobic, islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and transphobic comment that comes to their mind. But at the same time, we cannot have open dialogue about what divides us if we cannot share our beliefs, attitudes, and actions truthfully, regardless of how right or wrong they may be. Political correctness doesn’t help us understand how and why people feel the way they do — it only masks the underlying cause. Which, at its root, is fear and ignorance. Strive to always speak the truth while also respecting others’ truths. If we don’t, we will never heal the origin behind the deep wounds of prejudice and create lasting change. Instead, we will continue to repeat the vicious cycle of fear, segregation, and hatred.
4 | Wait to speak and actually LISTEN —
During conversations, practice the art of listening. Rather than formulating a response or interrupting others as they’re speaking to tell them they’re wrong, take a step back and truly hear what they have to say. Even if their opinions and position on an issue gets under our skin and makes us squirm with anger, listen empathically. Try to understand why they think the way they do. Doing so does not mean we align with their beliefs, but instead shows we are empathetic, loving, and civil. We all want to be seen and heard, and who knows… we may just begin to understand their perspective (to a certain degree). If not, at least we’ll be able to decipher the rationale in this individual’s way of thinking so that we can better address the disparity regarding the debated issue.
5 | Do something —
We spend a lot of our time talking about the problems currently plaguing our world. We discuss, complain, and even argue about what and how it needs to be done… yet, we don’t follow through with our words. Although some things are beyond our circle of influence, there are many initiatives we can get involved in to catapult massive change for the issues that are dear to our hearts.
As George R.R. Martin says, “The power resides only where men believe it resides,” so let’s reclaim our power and stop waiting around for politicians to do the work for us. Change starts with every single one of us. Listen, help out a neighbor, be positive, draft a petition, volunteer, protest, start a nonprofit, vote… the list is endless. Eventually others will follow suit.
Madeline Plucinska is a yoga teacher in Princeton, New Jersey. She is passionate about empowering her students to heal from the inside out through yoga, meditation, sound, and nutrition. She has her B.A. in Psychology from Franklin University Switzerland. In her free time, she loves to travel and be outside of her comfort zone. You can connect with her on Instagram at @little.madeliine.