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Civility and politeness in organisational communications | S4 E5

First published: 28 February, 2023

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Engaging Internal Comms Series 4
Civility and politeness in organisational communications | S4 E5
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Civility and politeness in organisational communications

A recent article in Psychology Today discussed how, in America, people routinely engage and witness aggressive or mean spirited behaviour towards each other and incivility that occurs. It tends to happen online, where we’ve got issues such as shaming, political polarisation etc and we probably all recognise that. Any of us who watch the news or read about some of the horrific stories of bullying and cyber bullying and other similar issues recognise that particularly with social media, but also in other walks of our life, that incivility has become a big problem.

Now, as an internal communicator, most of your communications will probably go through quite a lot of filtering mechanisms. There’ll be lots of checks and balances. But in general, within our organisations, we’re not always in control of the things that are going on every day and we’re not always in control of the different types of communications that happen outside of our professional remit. But I think we all probably care about this. Civility is one of the things that we should be encouraging our colleagues to do, particularly in our role as internal communicators, and we should be role modelling some of that. So what we’re going to explore in this episode is what are some of the issues that we face when we are trying to deal with civility?

How can we help our colleagues to understand how to engage with people who have different opinions, different values, perhaps different ways of doing things? It is possible to do this in a way that is civil and you can have these disagreements which all organisations need to a certain extent in order to move forward. If we have an organisation where everyone agrees with each other, then that’s probably going to lead to stagnation and no change. So we need to find a way to air our differences, to explore those differences, but to be able to do it in a civil way. Now, it might be that you don’t think that is an issue in your organisation, but I would also ask you to maybe think about your email culture as well.

A lot of our clients have told us that they argue or disagree with the amount of emails that are going out and the way that those emails are sometimes toned. This can cause lots of disagreements and it can result in ping pong email spats between colleagues. We will all probably recognise this. So we’re going to be looking at how we can engage with people who have different opinions. We’re going to be looking at how we can call out uncivil behaviour and try to drive more civility within our organisations, but also how we avoid just turning into an organisation where we very rarely challenge or we very rarely disagree with each other because we are worried about the reactions.

It’s about how we can air those differences in a way that is civil and not allow hostility and incivility to become a problem within our organisations. So that’s what we’re going to be looking at in today’s episode. And we probably have one of the most distinguished guests that we’ve had on the show, who’s going to walk us through her different perspectives and her ways of helping organisations to increase the amount of civility and reduce the hostility within their communications.

Guest profile

Shelby Scarbrough began her career in the White House as a member of President Ronald Reagan’s advance team, where she helped coordinate such landmark events as the Reagan-Gorbachev Moscow Summit. She then served as a protocol officer in the U.S. Department of State. In 1990, Shelby founded Practical Protocol, LLC, a company that plans bespoke events for foreign dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, and Lech Walesa.

Shelby’s experiences in both public service and the private sector have given her a unique insight into the practices that lead to positive relationships and productive communication between individuals, countries, and societies. Shelby resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is a speaker, entrepreneur, and writer.

Useful links

Link to a relevant episode of the podcast: https://thebigpicturepeople.co.uk/blog/podcast/empathy-in-communications-s1-e20/

Shelby’s LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shelby-scarbrough/

Shelby’s website: https://shelbyjoyscarbrough.com/

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