Practice the Power of Civility

by  Jane Perdue  |  Leadership Development

Some nasty stereotypes cling to people who practice civility and kindness:  they’re ineffectual, submissive, perhaps not very bright, and without clout.

If you call for civility or a suspension of unmitigated, unfettered aggression, they call you a wimp. They think you are a wimp. ~Gary Namie, Workplace Bullying Institute

Bosses who supervise with respect are “seen as less powerful than other managers—less in control of resources, less able to reward and punish. ~HBR Research

What’s up with these stereotypes?

It’s easy to fall into the trap that only bad people use stereotypes. But that’s not true. Stereotypes are mental shortcuts that all of us use to make quick sense of a fast-moving world.

Danger surfaces when we fail to hit our mental pause button and consciously reflect on the applicability of the stereotype to the person or situation at hand. If we’re interacting with someone who is treating us with civility, we have to ask ourselves some questions before jumping to conclusions based on stereotypical thinking.

Am I incorrectly interpreting kindness for a lack of intelligence?

Is this person really a powerless doormat simply because he cares what I think?

Is her civility a bona fide reason to think I can co-opt her ideas without attribution?

Be careful about the assumptions you make about others, even the positive ones. When we fail to do so, at the very least we are losing the opportunity to get to know someone on a more personal — more human — basis. At the very worst, we can inadvertently set up a chain of expectations and misunderstandings that will undermine the relationship itself. ~ Steve Livingston

It’s a paradox of life that we want to be treated with kindness yet treat those who are kind to us without respect.

The next time someone treats us with respect, acts as if we matter, cares what we think or deals with us fairly — in short, treats us with civility and kindness — let’s not sell them, or ourselves, short by assuming they’re without power or smarts or influence.

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About The Author

Articles By jane-perdue
Jane is a leadership futurist and well-mannered maverick who challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. She loves chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, paradox and shoes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

josh  |  08 Nov 2013  |  Reply

There is an old school mentality that bullying, yelling and screaming are the signs of a powerful person. In my mind it is the person who remains calm and focused when other people are losing their mind.

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” – Margaret Thatcher

Jane Perdue  |  13 Nov 2013  |  Reply

Josh — couldn’t agree with you more that positive power is best demonstrated by calmness…and kindness! Thanks for sharing!

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