The On Being website of Krista Tippett (one of my favourites) has just published a little piece including five suggestions or reviving civility in America, by Quaker spiritual writer Parker J Palmer. Since I think these may also work very well in other cultures, here they are, for your enrichment.
- Go downtown, or to the mall, turn off your cell phone or your iPod, and don’t let the crowd blur out. Instead, do some focused people-watching. Notice the faces, body language, and behavior of the people passing by. Imagine their life stories. Practice empathy. Enjoy diversity. Remember we are all in this together.
- If you use public transportation, or frequent a coffee shop or cafe, start a conversation with a stranger that might move from a comment on the weather to a question about something in the news. But instead of agreeing or disagreeing with what he or she tells you, ask questions that draw him or her out. Play the role of “roving reporter” whose purpose is not to tell others what you think but to find out how they see the world. Most people want a sense that someone sees and hears them. Be that someone.
- If new folks move into your neighborhood, introduce yourself. Tell them you want your neighborhood to be a place where people watch out for each other. Give them your phone number, and invite them to call if there is something you might help with, like keeping an eye on their house while they are gone. A caring neighborhood is next-door democracy.
- If you know someone who holds political beliefs different from yours, tell them that you learn by listening, not arguing, and ask them about the experiences that led to their convictions. Ask questions that take them behind their opinions to the real-life stories about people and events that helped shape what they believe. Don’t comment, just listen and learn. The more you know about another person’s story, the harder it is to dislike or distrust them.
- If you hear something hateful being said about people of certain backgrounds or beliefs, don’t get into a dog fight. Tell the speaker that you find what he or she said personally hurtful. Say that you value everyone’s humanity and find it painful to live in a world where we tear each other down rather than build each other up. Tell them you want a world where we can all say to each other, “Welcome to the human race!”