Incivility is all around us. Shrill debates, finger-pointing, and bullying have filled our workplaces, social media streams, schools, and families.

What we all need is a big dose of RESTRAINT.  P.M. Forni, author of Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct has written beautifully about this very idea:

“I would say insufficient training in restraint is identified as a cause of rising incivility.  As a society, we have been very good in instilling self-respect in our children but not as good in instilling self-restraint. When we teach self-esteem but forget to train our children in self-restraint, we create children who are self-centered, who believe the world revolves around them, who are so self-invested that they have little moral energy left for their fellow human beings.  They are trapped in a cage of narcissism that we have built for them. Restraint is an essential component of civility. We are civil when we are aware of others and we weave restraint, respect and consideration into the very fabric of this awareness.”

How can we show restraint in the workplace? Here are 6 ideas to consider:

  • Use a filter when speaking. Every thought in your head doesn’t need to be shared. Words leave a “wake”, much like a boat gliding across a lake. What is the “wake” you want to leave when you leave the room? Before you speak, try asking yourself: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
  • Develop the ability to adapt your communication style. Everyone needs a toolbox of styles so they can flex in the moment and communicate in ways that will be understood on the receiving end. Your communication style shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all, because it doesn’t.
  • Ask for input before responding. As Simon Sinek teaches: Be the last to speak. Screen out distractions. Ask clarifying and expanding questions to verify your understanding and draw out further information. The discussion will be better because of it.
  • Respect boundaries. Don’t assume you’re on a first-name-basis with everyone you meet. Don’t interrupt. Don’t help yourself to other people’s stuff, food, ideas. Without boundaries, we have chaos.
  • Recognize that people have feelings. Demonstrating empathy and compassion is not a show of weakness; it’s a sign of strong leadership. Put yourself in others’ shoes and think about what could be going on their lives outside of work. As the saying goes, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
  • Handle conflict and critiques in private. These events are not for public consumption, nor should they be handled via email. Step out of the hallway and get to a place with a door you can close. If someone is upset, let them vent before jumping in. Restrain yourself. Instead, be passive and respectful.

It’s not easy to show restraint. We’re human beings, after all. And we love to be heard and tell others what they need to do. Developing the ability to hold back, listen, and carefully choose our words can build better relationships, workplaces, and communities. Restraint – a value we need more of.

© 2018 Jill Bremer

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