After last week's emotional breakdown spiritual awakening, as Brene Brown calls it in her amazing Ted Talk, I laid low for a few days. I was feeling really exposed...self-imposed exposure -it's awesome and exhausting. I enjoyed the solitude of being home and able to process the events while walking with the dog and a relaxing snow day home with the kids. But after a few days I don't thrive in solitude. I'm a "people person." And not just in that job interview customer service sense of the term. I really love being with people. I thrive most in a community. I love the stories that come with people and their experiences. That's what I love about working at the hardware store and the leadership alliance. It's also what I love about Facebook and Twitter. These are places with their own unique communities - full of stories and people - full of life!

But being part of a community is not always easy. On a good day a community is like a meadow filled with a blend of prairie grasses and wildflowers all swaying harmoniously together in the gentle summer breeze, and on a bad day it's like a land field where one misstep blows up in your face and causes a domino effect. Unexpected explosions one after the other continue to happen with no real way of knowing when the destruction will stop. You just pray to make it out with your life credibility in tack. Because credibility is really all you have if you really want to contribute to your community. If you are part of a group where people can't believe or trust in you then you will not be very effective. 

I used to believe that authenticity was the most important thing when it came to being a successful community member, and I still believe that plays an important role, but I'm starting to wonder if I gave it too much emphasis. I'm starting to think that authenticity and civility are equally important. One can't really outweigh the other. 

I used to think that being blunt and direct about where I stood was kind of a noble thing to do. It's real, it's authentic, but I'm beginning to really doubt whether it's always kind, it's always true or it's always necessary. I kind of arrogantly believed that I could have an opinion about something, (or worse...someone) based on my experiences, and because I would say it to their face (if challenged) it was ok. I believed that being authentic it was the most productive way to be part of the community...probably because 'being real' comes fairly easy to me. I don't have the personality where I feel the need to make everyone happy, and I really don't mind being on the 'wrong' side. I'm typically pretty secure with that. But this authenticity, without civility, is basically just being a loud mouth! Like I said, it comes really easy for me! Probably a little too easy.

Lately I've considered (with the help of those who have been open and honest with me about my tone, body language or gossipy behavior) challenging myself to be more than just "the blunt one." I'm challenging myself to be the thoughtful one. Be a community member who uses directness and civility to be most effective. What I love about civility is that it's not niceness for niceness sake. It's not giving up your experiences or values to please anyone. Practicing civility doesn't mean you can't disagree, it means you assess other's opinions with the same value you assess your own. Practicing civility looks like this: 
Pay Attention. Be aware and attend to the world and the people around you.
Listen. Focus on others in order to better understand their points of view.
Be Inclusive. Welcome all groups of citizens working for the greater good of the community.
Don't Gossip. And don't accept when others choose to do so.
Show Respect. Honor other people and their opinions, especially in the midst of disagreement.
Be Agreeable. Look for opportunities to agree; don't contradict just to do so.
Apologize. Be sincere and repair damaged relationships.
Give Constructive Criticism. When disagreeing, stick to the issues and don't make a personal attack.
Take Responsibility. Don't shift responsibility and blame onto others; share disagreements publicly.
These principals allow for the unique tension that develops in a diverse and thriving community. A community where differences are embraced and valued. A place were we don't have to believe the same thing and we are not shunned or blamed or gossiped about when we have take a stance on something. Since that's the kind of community I want to be a part of, I guess I need to start behaving with authenticity & civility. 


  1. I can't even begin to tell you how relevant this is to me right now.
    Authenticity and Civility.
    Our little community could use a seminar on this.
    By the way, your style of writing is touching and profound.
    More, please.

  2. Thanks, Lauren. I think all communities probably need this seminar. I know I can do my part to be better. Thanks for the writing style compliment. I appreciate it.