Civility is important everywhere

-A A +A

 By Lance Minnis

An incident occurred today that really got me thinking about how we behave.

I know some will scoff and call me a fuddy duddy or worse, and some may get mad because they see themselves in what I am about to say. Heck, I see myself in it at times, which only makes the point stronger.

We as Americans and modern citizens of the world have a distinct lack of empathy or patience for anyone but ourselves, and our modern pace has led us to abandon civility as inconvenient and out of date. These attitudes are evident everywhere, in every public space and interaction. We all know and make fun of people who can’t peel themselves from a cellphone, though they are at a restaurant with friends, or in a checkout line, or being screamed at by their children. But that is a fairly innocuous form of narcissism.

Worse, and far more dangerous, are those who feel the road belongs to them- not plain speeders, but the dangerous ones who dodge and weave through traffic on their phones, who fly up to your bumper at dangerous speeds and swerve around using the shoulder, and all the others, whose time is so obviously more important than yours. From a business standpoint, this self-involvement leads to lost customers, lost time and a marked diminution of the standards of service.

In all of these examples, the attitude is all about “me,” even from the ones who are supposed to be customer focused.

So you say fine, old man, what does that have to do with me- which in itself is an example of what I am talking about- so I’ll tell you. Let’s put aside the general question of what happens to a society of narcissistic walking egos, and focus on business.

Suppose I run a restaurant. You are the customer. When you walk in, I am too busy to notice you, because I am aggressively talking to a disgruntled customer on the phone. The host is away from the station, and there are no servers in sight. I hang up the phone, and go to the back, not bothering to notice you…. after all, it’s not my job, I have “people” for that.

Once you are good and mad, a host appears and rudely leads you to a table, never once smiling or saying hello, merely “follow me please” in a bored voice.  When seated, your phone rings, right as the server comes over. You angrily brush them aside as you take that important 6:30 p.m. call, then wait 15 minutes before they come back. Do I really need to spell it out any further?

Society has rules and conventions. Sometimes, it’s okay to break them, especially ones society as a whole deems outmoded. Let’s face it, technology is here to stay, but technology isn’t the problem — an auto accident isn’t the phone’s fault, but the person’s who won’t put it down. These rules and conventions are even more important as we get more crowded and packed together… heck, there’s even a morning rush hour on Hwy. 55 in little old Henry County. But they are there for a reason, and have been built up over millennia to make living and dealing with people easier, and frankly, less dangerous.

From a business standpoint again, if you wonder why your sales are poor, why your clients don’t want to meet with you, why no one comes in the shop, the first thing to do is look at your behavior and that of your employees. If it is evident that your customers don’t feel important because you are all too busy to attend to them, guess what? It will affect your business. And when you rack your brain looking for reasons why that lady down the street is pulling people in hand over fist, you probably don’t have to look farther than the smiles on their faces and the handshakes from their cellphoneless hands.