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5 Ways to Bring Back Civility

It’s not too late to reverse a trend of bad manners and poor etiquette

5 tools for saving civility

Here are ways you can make a difference.

  1. Make a habit of practicing kindness, generosity and gratitude. Substantial research shows that people who regularly engage in these acts live longer, healthier and happier lives. It’s never too late to start.
  2. Nurture your social relationships. They have the capacity to generate your greatest happiness, scientists say. Enrich your connections by balancing Internet contact with phone calls and face-to-face visits, which are more personal forms of communication.
  3. Establish meaningful dialogue with medical providers. Assert your right to respectful and compassionate treatment. As a patient, you have the opportunity to evaluate hospital care; hospitals with extensive negative evaluations can lose Medicare subsidies.
  4. If you love your grandchildren but not their behavior, seize “teachable moments.” Child development experts say we’re no longer teaching our kids manners — or respect and empathy for others. By contrast, a major study reported that social skills are a more accurate predictor of future success than test scores. So step up your game when the grandchildren are in your house. Enlighten your progeny about the importance of developing interpersonal skills and relationships by engaging them in conversations without small screens and buttons. That may be your enduring legacy.
  5. Promote decency and decorum among elected officials. Hold them accountable for behavior during the 2012 campaign and, more important, once they’re in office. Urge civil discourse and bipartisanship to avoid gridlock. Your and your country’s livelihoods are at stake.

Given our sheer numbers as older people, we can have an impact on transformation. At the very least, we can set an example. It may take a generation to create a positive cultural shift, but we have to start somewhere. These are the seeds we can all plant. One at a time.

Sara Hacala is a certified etiquette and protocol consultant and author of Saving Civility: 52 Ways to Tame Rude, Crude and Attitude for a Polite Planet.

Also of interest: Polling results on cellphone etiquette.

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