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Civility and Decency…Has social media given us an excuse to forget to treat each other well?

“Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you.”

I’m sure you remember the Golden Rule. It’s one of the simplest and earliest “rules” I recall being taught by my parents. If you do good things to other people and treat other people well, they will treat you well.

When my boys were little, some of their first words were “please” and “thank you.” They pretty quickly learned if they said them and smiled, they could get things. The reverse was also true and even more quickly learned. It was a simple lesson that stands them in good stead today.

In today’s sound bite and online world, we often forget the power of words and the hurt they can cause. We get things off our chest without thinking about those on the receiving end. It’s time to take a step back and think before we respond. Organize your thoughts and think before you post.

Put yourself in the shoes of the person/company who will receive the message and maybe – or maybe not – hold off on hitting the send button. It’s also important to remember that social media messages are in the public eye so although you may design it for one audience, many more will likely see it and respond.

If we treat those who live and work in our communities with respect, they will respect us and treat us with respect. It may be rather Polyanna-ish but I truly believe it is true. How can we expect others to treat us well if we don’t handle them respectfully too.

This is true in our professional lives as well as our personal lives. If I treat my communication colleagues with respect and help them out, I hope they will also return the favor. It’s worked pretty well for 30 years and I don’t really see that changing. We’ve created a wonderful network of professional development, camaraderie and friendship because of that mutual support.

Chris Brogan had a wonderful post last month where he urged us to deepen our networks and devote two hours each day to strengthening our relationships. Chris’ post is specific to professional relationships but I suggest the same rules apply to your neighborhood, community, family and personal friends.

So, my question for you today is…have you treated those you run across with respect and kindness? What could you/could we all for that matter do to treat others more kindly? How could our respect and love improve the world in which we live? How do your share what you do with others so they can improve themselves? Share your thoughts here and we can build a better world for our children and future generations.

Photo credit: Clover_1

By |2018-03-18T23:02:56+00:00February 2nd, 2010|Leadership & Networking|3 Comments

About the Author:

Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, runs a strategic communications consultancy where she helps clients understand how to integrate new media into traditional communication programs. Mary has counseled clients in Tacoma, Anchorage, San Francisco, Oregon, and Colorado for nearly 40 years working with a variety of food organizations, several agencies, and as a key team member on two successful US Senate campaigns. 


  1. Shonali Burke, ABC February 3, 2010 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Great points, Mary. It’s a little frightening to think how quickly the world rushes by – and often the things you say or do unthinkingly can’t be undone. No wonder many of us yearn for a gentler, kinder world. Thanks for reminding us we can make it so.

  2. Kate Gerlek February 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Your point about thinking before hitting the send button is wise.Even when not responding in anger or irritation it pays to take a moment to read messages from the recepient’s point of view.What seems funny or witty from the sender’s viewpoint can seem sarcastic or mean on the other end.

  3. Gina Romero February 25, 2010 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    This is so true. I initially saw Social Media as a way to communicate in an authentic way and didn’t filter my messages. I’ve thought better of that, and have really toned it down on Twitter and on Facebook.

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