Choose to Be Civil

This past Sunday, American Enterprise Institute president, Arthur Brooks, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled "Choose to Be Grateful. It will make you happier." I encourage you to read it. He uses a thanksgiving experience from 24 years ago to make that point that "acting grateful can actually make you grateful." Dr. Brooks' op-ed was so well written it got me to thinking.

The same philosophy applies to civility. If we choose to approach either other in a civil manner, to listen to each other and to engage in a spirited discussion on an issue, then we are choosing to focus on civility. It doesn't mean that one must give in or give up on their point of view. It simply means a good discussion teaches both sides something, and it may change a mind or two. But the important point is, the more we listen and talk to -- not at -- each other, the more likely we are to understand each other.

Civility, despite the press's insistence, does not equal political correctness. Civility is the art of please and thank you, not interrupting someone until they are finished, speaking in a normal tone and actually listening. In other words, it is the basic manners we were taught before being sent out into the world -- whether it was to play with the kids in the neighborhood or how to behave at our first job.

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. Thoughtful discussion can and does lead to the discovery of common ground across the country in board rooms, class rooms and neighborhoods every day. It is also by listening and asking -- not shouting -- questions that we learn how people have come to a certain conclusion, and it may be enough to make us rethink our own views or help us to find some common ground. Why it is that some feel that being in politics means they will only be heard if they shout, is perplexing. Especially when you consider that those who shout the loudest do not necessarily have the best answer.

Free speech is a key foundation of our nation, and men and women have died to protect that right for all of us. And while the founding fathers clearly had their own disagreements - some of which are embedded in the Constitution -- and while voices were surely raised in Philadelphia as they hammered out the Constitution, they still were able to reach agreement on a document that everyone signed and gave birth to our republic. If they could come to agreement on such a huge issue, certainly we can all take the time to work through our issues with others today.

So as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let's do as Dr. Brooks suggests and choose to be grateful. And let's also choose to be civil -- even when we don't feel like it -- who knows, it might catch on.