NORWALK, Conn. Say "please." Say "thank you." The words "have a nice day" would be nice.
Those are some of the suggestions gathered in the first community conversation about civility hosted, by Norwalk 2.0 and REd APPLES on Oct. 12 at Fat Cat Pie Company, according to Jackie Lightfield of Norwalk 2.0.
"About 50 Norwalk residents, reflecting a cross-section of the community, shared their views in writing by taking the five-question civility quiz on a series of posters around the room," she wrote in an email. "They also selected drink tickets with civility attributes with 'show respect' topping the list, followed by 'seek common ground,' 'show appreciation' and 'listen' tied for second."
Participants' written comments indicated they experienced nearly twice as many examples of uncivil behavior as civil behavior over the past year.
Listening, collaboration and general politeness topped the list of civil behaviors. Little things such as saying please, thank you, good morning and have a nice day make a big difference, according to the data collected. Participants also acknowledged the kind of collaboration that took place after the recent hurricane with neighbors helping each other.
Examples of uncivil behavior included rudeness e.g., interrupting, not listening, bullying and general loss of self-control in public and online where people often hide behind anonymity. Road rage was also cited as a troubling behavior.
Creating a civil community is important, according to participants, because people want Norwalk to be successful, it's easier to get things done, and they want to continue living here. They also acknowledged the relationship between democracy and civil behavior, perhaps taking a cue from George Washington who said, "Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present."
The Speak Your Peace Civility Project in Wisconsin website states, "This is not a campaign to end disagreements. It is a campaign to improve public discourse by simply reminding ourselves of the very basic principles of respect. By elevating our level of communication and avoiding personal attacks and general stubbornness, we can avoid unhealthy debate. This will lead to a more effective democracy and help maintain our sense of community by increasing civic participation."
The fourth question on the quiz asked people to identify something they could do in their everyday work/life to be more civil. Comments focused on increasing self-awareness, developing patience, and improving listening skills:
Think before I speak, words can hurt.
Slow down and be more patient.
Listen to everyone and respect opposing opinions.
Look for common ground.
According to one participant, "Civility should be a normal, natural part of our existence...simply treat others how you want to be treated ... have respect." Another suggested that public officials and town employees need to learn that "a resident asking a question does not equate to challenging the official." Another shared, "Walk the walk, the world hates a fake."
Norwalk 2.0 and REd APPLES plan to keep the civility conversation going by sharing the results of the civility quiz and promoting ongoing dialogue through future programs.
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