Maintain a Civil Tongue, Repost from Jerry Houston

Thanks to Harvey Mackay and Jerry Houston for these words of wisdom.

Rudeness rules the headlines these days — seems we can’t escape it no matter where we go. Crudeness is the norm rather than the exception. Can we even call ourselves a civilized society anymore?

From the hallowed halls of Congress to the usually civilized tennis world to television talk shows to music awards: what are these people thinking? That no one will notice? That they are exempt from the rules? That their behavior won’t have a profound effect on their futures?

I would refer all these offenders to a few hours of Disney movies, where the Golden Rule prevails without fail and conversation is G-rated and uplifting. Bambi’s little friend Thumper could teach them all a lesson: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

This is not just kid stuff. Knowing that few of us would take Thumper’s advice literally, I’ll rephrase: If you can’t say something nicely, don’t say anything at all.

There is always a dignified way to get your point across, and you won’t end up having to apologize or explain your actions. Believe it or not, people actually listen to reasoned arguments. They don’t give much credence to hotheads.

We all know how damaging and hurtful an outburst can be in our personal lives, and often we assume our family and friends will forgive our bad behavior and overlook our lapses.

But in a business setting, where those we deal with don’t necessarily have to deal with us again, rudeness or disrespectful behavior is never a good option. A lapse in judgment can easily translate to a collapse in business. Word travels fast — and your reputation is at stake. Your future is at stake.

Walk away, count to ten, bite your tongue, whatever works for you. Practice self-control at every opportunity. You may not have much control over a situation, but you can control how you respond to it.

A Carnegie Foundation study once found that only fifteen percent of a businessperson’s success could be attributed to job knowledge and technical skills — which were considered to be an essential element but overall, a small contribution. A whopping eighty-five percent of one’s success could be determined by the “ability to deal with people” and “attitude.”

The lesson for anyone wanting to get ahead and still get a point across is that self-control and consideration are critical ingredients that supersede even a superior product or top knowledge. The “scorekeepers” in business are not so very different from the line judges and umpires in tennis: you will lose points if you lose control.

As my friend motivation guru Zig Ziglar says, “You are free to choose, but the choices you make today will determine what you will have, be, and do in the tomorrow of your life.”

“No one characteristic will help one to advance, whether in business or society, as politeness,” said B.C. Forbes, founder of Forbes Magazine. “Competition is so keen today, there is so much standardized merchandise, there are so many places where one’s wants can be satisfied, that the success or failure of a business can depend on the ability to please customers or clients. Courtesy — another name for politeness — costs nothing, but can gain much for both an individual and for an organization.” It is interesting to note that Forbes made those comments more than 50 years ago. Clearly, some things never change.

As Mark Twain observed: “Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity — these are strictly confined to man; he invented them. Among the higher animals there is no trace of them. They hide nothing; they are not ashamed. Man, with his soiled mind, covers himself. He will not even enter a drawing room with his breast and back naked, so alive are he and his mates to indecent suggestion… Man is the Animal That Blushes. He is the only one that does it — or has occasion to.”

Dear readers, what do you say we try to reverse this trend?

It is perfectly acceptable — even occasionally necessary — to disagree with those around you. But you needn’t be disagreeable. It’s okay to make waves; it isn’t necessary to drown the other person. But lose your cool, lose your temper, lose control, and you’ll find you are the one who’s all wet.

Mackay’s Moral: Giving someone a piece of your mind rarely gives you peace of mind.

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