Wanted: Social Skills Curriculum
“You feckless complicit piece of s#-t!” the attention-seeking comedienne(?) Kathy Griffin tweeted to the First Lady of the United States.
In today’s highly charged political climate the vitriol coming from both sides of the aisle is sadly not surprising. Inappropriate, hateful comments, like that of the uncivilized Griffin, are routinely hurled at the “wrong side”. The cruder the comment, the better it seems, as we learned from television hack Samantha Bee, when she called the daughter of the President of the United States, a “…*feckless c-#t.”
Why would anyone choose a career in politics? It must be a chore for politicians to drag themselves out of bed each morning knowing that today could be the day they are publicly humiliated or berated. Maybe they’ll be kicked out of a restaurant, accosted in a parking lot, forced to dodge a raw egg hurled by a protestor, insulted while giving a speech, or badmouthed on late night television? Being a glutton for punishment must be a job requirement for one seeking a position in politics.
The lack of proper social skills in politics is alarming. Incivility in the political arena is becoming normalized. Regardless of party affiliation, politicians and their supporters often act coarsely and display undignified behavior that is unbefitting elected officials…or for that matter, any member of civilized society.
In Duluth, Minnesota, a decade ago, politics became so hateful that young people who might have chosen a career in politics were turned off. They didn’t want any part of a system that was so contentious.
Thankfully Duluth’s civic leaders had the brains and vision to realize that it wasn’t healthy for their community to foster a venomous culture. They needed to change the social skills of those in government to ensure that people treated one another with dignity and respect and practiced good social skills. In order to attract bright, educated and well-meaning youth to politics, civic leaders needed members to use good social skills.
Duluth civic leaders created a simple social skills curriculum titled, Speak Your Peace: The Civility Project. This straightforward social skills curriculum was a simple list of nine social skills rules that would ensure well-mannered interactions among people in politics.
The good social skills program was a hit. The social skills rules were implemented and adhered to by all six major sections of local government including city and county boards and school districts. People who worked within local government improved their social skills and they became better adept at solving problems. Practicing good social skills proved to pave the way for quality policy making.
Duluth Chooses Social Skills Over Incivility
The social skills curriculum that the city embraced are key to communicating well and building interpersonal relationships.
The Speak Your Peace website says:
“This is not a campaign to end disagreements. It is a campaign to improve public discourse by simply reminding ourselves of the very basic principles of respect.
Our key message is to promote nine simple tools for practicing civility, taken from P. M. Forni’s book Choosing Civility.
Pay Attention. Be aware and attend to the world and the people around you.
Listen. Focus on others in order to better understand their points of view.
Be Inclusive. Welcome all groups of citizens working for the greater good of the community.
Don’t Gossip. And don’t accept when others choose to do so.
Show Respect. Honor other people and their opinions, especially in the midst of disagreement.
Be Agreeable. Look for opportunities to agree; don’t contradict just to do so.
Apologize. Be sincere and repair damaged relationships.
Give Constructive Criticism. When disagreeing, stick to the issues and don’t make a personal attack.
Take Responsibility. Don’t shift responsibility and blame onto others; share disagreements publicly.
We at the Social Skills Company applaud the social skills curriculum initiative of Duluth. It is imperative that we, as a civilized society, incorporate good social skills into our everyday lives. A society breaks down quickly when its members stop treating one another with dignity and respect. As soon as the insults start to fly the dialogue stops and progress comes to a screeching halt. Duluth took steps to help stabilize its government.
It is outrageous to accost, insult, assault and embarrass people in the name of politics. The beauty of a free society is that we have differing opinions and yet we still unite. Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, “…a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” I think that Lincoln, a man described as having a sincere and pure nature would have been appalled that we have allowed the public discourse to decay to such a degree that people’s lives are destroyed by hate.
Following basic social skills guidelines guarantees that even when things get heated, debate is not stifled AND people are treated with value.
Becoming a certified social skills trainer and implementing a social skills curriculum in schools or after school programs is a good way to ensure that society doesn’t perish. Teaching children social skills from a very early age and instilling politeness and manners teaches children that incivility is unacceptable.
If you work in politics and you don’t like the way people behave why not become a certified social skills trainer. Social Skills Company programs include an in-depth social skills curriculum that teaches not only the nine simple tools for civility but a whole lot of other invaluable lessons like conflict resolution, listening, accepting responsibility, cleaning up one’s mistakes and more! Perhaps your constituents would be better served if you spread respect and dignity.
* (“feckless” inserted before a coarse insult, means lacking initiative or strength of character; irresponsible. Example: Kathy Griffin and Samantha Bee are feckless and rude women who lack social skills.)