There has been a destructive force that has been in development for the past 20-25 years. It hasn’t been designed in some obscure and clandestine governmental “area”. It has been in our face in perpetuity via media outlets and a subtle shift in sociological expectations. The birth of reality TV and shock jocks seemed to bring this to the fore of our society. Being presented as mere “entertainment”, it appeared to be benign in nature. The unfortunate bit, is that it took on a bit of a larger role in our culture than solely entertainment.

As the popularity of people who perpetuated incivility steadily climbed, it became humorous to emulate these characteristics. The real death blow was when incivility was aligned with the idea of free speech. People should have the freedom to speak their mind and be able to share their opinions and thoughts on any subject. With that freedom comes the responsibility of maintaining a society that doesn’t become self-destructive in other areas for the sake of supporting a perverted interpretation of that freedom.

Civility is synonymous with words like:  tact, decorum, respect, amenity, courtesy, mindfulness, regard. Every thought and opinion can be framed and communicated with these ideas in mind. If this doesn’t happen in society, it won’t happen in the workplace, the family, communities, nor the government. People make up each one of these establishments and people are those who choose to be civil or not in how they communicate with one another.

We give proper consideration to biological & nuclear weapons and other forms of WMD, yet we struggle to give equal attention to the incivility we permit and perpetrate within our society. Each are destructive forces that limit our ability to move forward as a people and to be true leaders in any capacity. We leaders must begin to put civility on our radar as something we recognize as a cultural influence in our organizations. How something is being said should be just as important as what is being said. It’s not just about words, but actions. There are plenty of actions that scream incivility as well. If we manage our cultures properly, there should be no room for incivility.

As we develop and maintain the culture within our organization, we can set a standard of civility among those we lead. The status quo is set by the lowest acceptable common denominator. The onus is on leadership to set this standard, not to allow it to default only to what people are willing to put up with. Don’t just lead internally within your organization, lead within your industry. Let positive peer pressure rule the day, but be civil about how you do it.

The current path of incivility is truly a weapon of mass destruction that threatens the very fabric of our society; not just as a country, but as humanity. Incivility leads to poor decisions based on an emotional response to an act devoid of civility. In other words, we do something we wouldn’t have otherwise considered had there been more civility in the whole process. We are the masters of our own choices, yet the fallible nature of our humanity is susceptible to provocation. Let’s never forget that.

How can you help yourself and others to stamp out the prevalence of incivility?