FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | James Cathcart | November, 2009
Over the last several months, I have been teaching a lot of content based on Stephen M.R. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust. As I have immersed myself in this curriculum, I have begun to more clearly view the world through the “trust glasses”. When one does this, they begin to become acutely aware of the high trust taxes that we as a society are paying due to low trust. I have also noticed, in a few situations, the wonderful dividends that accrue in high trust relationships, but unfortunately they seem more and more scarce.
There are many reasons why trust is eroding in the world, and Stephen illustrates them well in the book. One of the causes that I, and certainly many others have become sensitive to is the steady decline of respect and common courtesy. In fact the term “common courtesy” is somewhat of an oxymoron today.
Media opinion shows are clear examples of how common discourtesy has become. One popular broadcaster has a regular segment where he berates people who have a different opinion than his. Are these demonic souls advocating the torture of the innocent, or the destruction of civilization as we know it? No, most of them are good people who simply see the world differently. Yet, this broadcaster ends each of these sarcastic segments with the words “Shut the hell up”. Nice. This guy must be a hoot at parties.
Another broadcaster, on the other end of the political dial, often refers to individuals that he disagrees with as morons and imbeciles, refering to them using demeaning derivitives of their names. Remember when you were in third grade and you would call your arch nemesis “Bobby” “Bobby-snobby”? Same thing, only this broadcaster isn’t in third grade anymore.
To me the political, religious or social point of view of a person isn’t nearly as revealing of their character as how they treat those who see things differently than they do.
While none of these individuals have the power to directly affect society on their own, their example stirs the anger and hatred of millions of weak-willed viewers. These viewers then begin to speak to those who disagree with them in the same manner. Soon we are living in a cacophony of contempt and contention.
If we as a society were more concerned with civility, rather than whether or not we agree with the offending person, and we expected our media, political and social representatives to set a good example for the rest of us, discourse in the world would have a very different tone indeed.
Until we are willing to set such a standard, and hold ourselves accountable to it, I think we can expect trust to continue to wane to the point where we stop talking to each other altogether.
And that would be the end of civilization as we know it.