from an expert in the field:
Lew Bayer is president of CivilityExperts.com.
abandon the monarchy?
I THOUGHT I WAS dreaming. In the grocery store I heard a Bluetooth-clad woman in front of me apologize. She actually pulled the headset out
of her ear and told the cashier she was sorry for being rude in answering
her cellphone in the middle of the transaction. Then it occurred to me that
I hadn’t endured the typical honking and swearing in the parking lot on
the way in. And not even once did I have to move some self-absorbed,
grouchy shopper’s cart out of the middle of the aisle so I could pass. A
couple of strangers even made direct eye contact and said good morning as we all navigated the
crowded sampling stations.
Could it be that Canadians have more than maple syrup coursing through their veins? Were
my American friends and European clients correct in saying that courtesy is a “Canadian thing,”
that manners are in our blood and a natural part of being Canadian?
Percentage reflects votes received by
March 18, 2010. Results may reflect
Debate being picked up by blogs.
Based on my recent experiences, I’d say yes, and some of my well-travelled friends and out-of-country visitors agree. They say:
• Canadians are neighbourly. They will shovel a neighbour’s walk without being asked and
expect no favour in return.
• Canadians are considerate. They won’t let their dog poop on someone else’s lawn, and
they’ll automatically turn down their music at 11 p.m.
• It’s the little things Canadians do, such as taking their shoes off at the door, not showing up
empty-handed when they’re guests, cleaning up after themselves, being respectful of other
people’s property and tipping, that add to their reputation for civility. And yes, Canadians
are great tippers!
As the leading civility expert in Canada for the past 12 years, I am pleased to report that
Canadians are paying closer attention to their manners. Increasingly, we are acknowledging civility when we experience it and we are reciprocating in kind. I believe that we are starting to better
understand the impact of rudeness on our health, our relationships, service standards and the
overall quality of our lives. And, I believe that the three core elements of civility—practicing
restraint, showing respect and taking responsibility—accurately describe the character of most
Canadians. I am Canadian, and I am proud to be polite. C
from an expert in the field:
of Toronto Press, 2009).
Benet Davetian is director of The Civility Institute ( www.civility
institute.com);and author of Civility:;A;Cultural;History (University
IF WE DEFINE CIVILITY as the avoidance of conflict and the adoption of a
polite position that seeks not to discriminate (or, at least, appears not to), then
the verdict would be yes. We Canadians continue to be considered by our
southern and European friends as some of the most polite people in the world.
Of course, there are myriad exceptions to our mild-mannered tendencies: symphony-blaring cellphones in restaurants; pedestrians and motorists
mindless of one another’s presence; people hurrying through doors with no thought of who
they’re shutting out behind them; pregnant women and the elderly being left seatless in subways;
Internet addicts posting venom in gleeful anonymity; certain teenagers bottle-fed on American
Idol who can hardly write a decent sentence, but who feel entitled to unlimited fame and riches.
Beyond these irritants is something deeper and more disturbing. True civility, in the classical
definition of the word (civil or civic), demands active and pro-social citizenship. It requires us to
think not only of the comfort of the person with whom we are face to face (or e-mail to e-mail),
Contemporary Canadians are faced with numerous impossible contradictions. We are a nation
in our constitution, but, in reality, we are 12 territories with different health and education systems,
political parties and notions of best government and corporate practices. The individual is required
to be civil and ethical, yet is confronted by innumerable hurdles: schools that have tried to remain
non-directive by turning a blind eye to student bullying; corporations that, in a bid to be supra-competitive, have abandoned Canadian workers in pursuit of offshore workers earning minimal
wages; governments saddled with debt that have forgotten that waiting for a year to see a medical
specialist was never the deal made with citizens when Canada’s social system was built. How are
Canadians to remain civil, altruistic and ethical when, at every turn, they are asked to turn a blind
eye to their needs, those of their colleagues and those of the most unfortunate?
Final verdict: We are civil in the limited sense but not in the global sense. It is not our fault,
but the fault of our educational, political and commercial cultures. Things are turning around,
however. After all, are we not discussing the issue right now? C
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