This New Year marks six years that I have been blogging on the Three E’s – Etiquette, Ethics and Empathy in the Workplace (and in Life). As we begin a New Year together, I am adding a fourth E for your consideration – engagement. To succeed in one’s personal, professional, social and civic lives it is necessary to engage more – with ourselves; our coworkers; our family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances; and our country.
This need not be overwhelming. At the beginning of each year New Year, resolutions that are made often seem insurmountable by the end of January and usually wind up by the wayside. Instead, making a few small changes often can better facilitate progress. There’s an old English proverb, which may have come from an old English Poem, which says, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” The image of that transformation should encourage us to be unafraid to make some incremental adjustments in the way we engage with others; then we can sit back and enjoy the mighty results!
Also inspirational is that “tale as old as time” of Beauty And The Beast, in which a spoiled and cruel prince who is transformed into a beast by an enchantress is able by making little changes to be again transformed, this time into a compassionate and loving person. He does this by allowing himself to engage with the story’s heroine, Belle, who is kind, confident, ethical and independent. The small changes undertaken by the beast produced a life-changing result.
Well, dear readers, if acorns and cursed beasts can bring about such towering results by starting out small or engaging in little changes here and there, surely we can too!
Another aspect of reaching goals that I find attractive, especially as an etiquette consultant, is the idea put forth by David deSteno in his New York Times article, that embracing and expressing compassion and gratitude can actually help more than exercising willpower in fulfilling New Year’s resolutions. With that in mind, I would like to share with you a Wish List of how we can use our emotional intelligence to engage with each other on social media and in civic matters, and how families can engage with each other in positive ways to strengthen their ties. By making some small changes in the way we engage, we can individually and collectively bring about big results in 2018:
Civility In Social Media
The Internet, which has opened so many doors by providing unlimited information – much of it valuable — and connecting people to family, friends, clients, jobs, organizations, medical facilities and other life-affirming and life-changing entities, also has an infamous dark side.
One aspect of that dark side perpetuates bullying, shaming, taunting and arguing with others. We are aware of such dark behavior involving high-profile cases of online harassment, such as those of Monica Lewinsky and Tyler Clementi, for example, and the ongoing vicious remarks and personal attacks in the comment sections of many online publications.
But the fact that some individuals have cluttered the worldwide web with negativity and distress does not mean that we cannot declutter it, and replace it with constructive discourse that will bring people together in positive ways. We can do this simply by putting some thought into our own comments before going public on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and the like.
Before commenting online, imagine that everyone you know will be reading your comments and remarks and will know who you are, whether you are writing under your own name or a nom de plume. Family, friends, parents of the person you are dating or want to date, and anyone with whom you might be interviewing for a highly sought after job, admission to college or industry organization, or membership in a popular club, will read your every comment. How will that affect your chances? Your life? As well, consider how others might be affected by your comments. Will your comments deepen the darkness or expand enlightenment?
Influencing others often can be accomplished by taking the time to state well-researched facts, reasoned opinions, constructive criticism and thoughtful suggestions. Under no circumstances should name-calling or pointless accusations be part of the discourse. Taking such an approach can translate into a powerful force for lifting spirits, creating enthusiasm, prompting kindness and adding something positive to the online, worldwide conversation that can inspire hearts and minds. Such small changes can become a big deal.
Stronger Family Bonding
The cornerstone of health and well-being for most people is the family structure. Whether one is single or married or in a committed relationship, one’s biological or extended family can have a major influence on one’s lifelong personal happiness and confidence as well as professional success.
To bond, it is first necessary to engage. Family engagement can occur in many ways, by functioning as a team to take care of home and hearth, helping with homework, working out difficulties, taking vacations, and the like. One very important component of family life is dining together on a regular basis. Studies have shown that families that dine together three or more times per week create an environment that helps their children, adolescents and teenagers to become healthier in mind and body, as well as more confident and accomplished.
It can be challenging in our hectic modern society for families to find time to dine together routinely. But making small changes in the family schedule so that parents and children can focus on each other on a regular basis can result in big benefits for everyone.
Civic Pride and Citizenship
The most important decision a U.S. citizen can make is to vote. Voting is the mechanism by which American people control their government. But as we know, Americans are infamous as being among the least engaged voting populations among developed countries. For various reasons, there is a large percentage of Americans who have little or no say in their government, whether local, state or federal — including its laws, court decisions, executive orders, level of law enforcement, benefits to citizens and decisions affecting the economy, education, healthcare, the environment and national security. For a country founded on self-government, this is a pretty poor state of affairs. But, again, by each of us resolving to vote in our elections, individually and collectively we can make a big change.
First, it’s important to vote in every election, not just the Presidentials. Mid-term, state and local elections can greatly affect a person’s life for better or worse. Often there is no perfect candidate, but one generally is going to be better depending on a citizen’s political philosophy or station. So, for starters, vote. To select your candidate it does take some open-minded research to learn the issues and the candidates’ positions and qualifications. In most cases it is also necessary to register and plan your schedule and means in order to get to the polls. If you are a student away from home on campus, be sure to check with your college on the registration process so you don’t miss a vote; you can also visit Rock the Vote for general information. In the whole scheme of things, these are small steps to take to maintain control of one’s government.
Second, help others — family members, friends, neighbors or anyone in need of assistance — to register and get to the polls. Finally, become involved in a political campaign; usually, you can volunteer as much or as little as you wish, or you might be able to apply for an internship or regular position.
Crafting an attainable plan to engage by making some small changes takes a little planning and a dose of emotional intelligence, but it’s an empowering way to start the New Year!
Until next time,