August 7, 2013

Civility In America - getting from problems to solutions

I recently shared a few alarming results from the 2013 Civility In America Study and detailed an example of a missed opportunity to make a difference. Today, I want to delve deeper into what the research shows.

It's not shocking, to me anyway. I have long been aware we have a pervasive culture of incivility in America. This latest study reveals how widespread the problem is. Incivility has essentially become a way of life in America:

According to Jack Leslie, Chairman of Weber Shandwick, "Incivility has become the default in too many of our interactions and it is affecting the very fabric of society.


While the results do not in any way surprise me, I worry that what we are becoming is complacent, even accepting about this current state of affairs. Or perhaps people feel helpless; believing there is nothing they can do to affect change.

  • 95% believe we have a civility problem in America 
  • 17.1 = average number of times Americans encounter incivility in a 7-day week, or 2.4 times per 
  • 24% have personally experienced cyberbullying (threefold increase since 2011)
  • 70% think the Internet encourages uncivil behavior 
  • 70% think that incivility has risen to crisis levels


    The study shows incivility impacts all aspects of our lives. School. Work. Personal relationships. The day-to-day of our lives. It should move us to want to make a difference.

    Without a doubt, America has a civility problem. Each wave of Civility in America reiterates the unfortunate fact that incivility is ubiquitous; no area of American society is untouched. Eroding civility is harmful to our country’s future and takes a toll on how we interact with the people and institutions around us. The belief that America has a civility problem and that civility will get worse has not waned since the survey’s inception. In fact, it has become our “new normal.” Americans’ experiences with incivility add a noticeably disturbing dimension, particularly as we see the Internet increasingly identified as a cause of incivility. 

    According to the study, Americans feel the primary source of incivility in our country is the US Government. So let's do something about it. Let's hold our political leaders to a higher standard. Expect them to set the right example and if they don't, vote them out.

    Of course, we are not blameless. The American public was viewed as the second source of incivility. Every day, in ways large and small, people are treating others with incredible amounts of disrespect. As the executive summary states, "incivility is a way of life."


    The study looks rather extensively at incivility online, acknowledging the internet is "the modern-day playground for bullies:"

    On the one hand, seeing this data feels good. It reinforces what I have been trying to shout from the virtual rooftops for several years now. But identifying the problem is not the same as solving it.


    Americans are more willing to take control of incivility in their own lives – half (50%) have ended a friendship because another person was uncivil, a significant increase from 2012 (44%). And perhaps due to incivility fatigue in all aspects of American life, the vast majority of Americans (87%) say they would be willing to take a national civility pledge on a national holiday such as July 4th.

    That's a great start, however it is not enough for people to take a pledge to be civil for just one day. It needs to be for every day. The women who take The Mom Pledge commit to following its principles in all their online activities, all the time:

    "I will conduct myself with integrity in all my online activities. I can lead by example."


    Every single day I am disheartened by behavior I witness online. That is greatly tempered by the commitment more and more women are making to take a leadership role in bringing civility back to online exchanges between moms. And setting the right example for our children, who will set the tone of civility for future generations of Americans.

    From the bottom of my heart I say, "Thank you." Your support gives me hope. It lifts me up. It keeps me moving toward my singular goal. Because I do not believe we should ever accept the current state of Civility in America.

    You can read the executive report from the 2013 Civility in America Survey here. But what I'd really love for you to do is share in the comments how you think we can work to solve this problem. More solutions are needed. Let's discuss...

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