Gerald wanted to shake up an organization and suggested they all start getting a little “edgy” with each other. “We can have some fun and be a little harsh with one another, make people uncomfortable.”
Gerald’s idea was in direct conflict with the organization’s cherished and long held mission and values that required people always be treated with respect. Past experience with problem members demonstrated a significant drop in membership when people were “edgy”. With this one statement, he completely forfeited his leadership credibility. His desire to be edgy could have destroyed the organization.
Face it. Being edgy isn’t fun or cool. It is simply rude.
Edgy, or rude, behavior is dangerous. The impact has no up-side and a big down-side, including:
- Putting people on guard, protecting themselves instead of relaxing and freely participating.
- Damaging, even destroying, self-esteem. You have no idea if someone in your audience was abused in the past, has a tender heart, or has some other tendency to sensitivity.
- Creating the perception of a hostile atmosphere.
- Fomenting a war of words that could potentially escalate to physical violence.
- Breaking up a group, formal or not, when people get tired of the behavior.
We live in a time when, according to the 2014 Civility in America survey, approximately two thirds of the population thinks incivility has already reached crisis proportions. Most people recognize that how you treat others matters.
Instead of being harsh with people, think about how you want to be perceived: do you want to be labeled as making people uncomfortable (and wanting to avoid you) or as making people feel good about themselves.
Some people like to engage in “friendly”, potentially rude bantering. If you are among those, be aware that you carry the responsibility for picking your audience wisely. Some married couples have pet names for each other that are edgy. If they willingly agree, free of any coercion (including peer pressure), you might try it. At the same tine, be aware that is a reflection on your character if word gets out.
It is to your benefit to treat people with respect and leave them feeling good about themselves. With incivility running so high in our culture, it is in your interest to avoid being part of the problem by deciding to treat people with respect.