By: Leslie Bailey, Robert J. Murney Clinic Manager
I was sitting beside the pool at an apartment complex when a group of adolescents arrived. They jumped in the pool and began shouting profanities at each other. I walked over to the adolescents and asked them to lower their voices and to stop using the language they were using. They, in return, asked why; they were not hurting anyone. I then asked them, "Would you or your parents appreciate the same behavior displayed under your window?” The adolescent’s stated that the behavior was unacceptable. I proceeded to explain that the residents in the pool side apartment would feel the same way. They apologized and stopped the behavior.
It occurs to me that every action and reaction has an effect on others and the environment around us. Our Individual actions can either create an inviting atmosphere or a negative one. If an individual puts himself /herself out there to speak with us, then we should stop and think what effect we are having on that person. Have courage to talk with others to gain their perspective. Notice how you are interacting with them and ask yourself if you are being civil to the other person.
If our first responsibility is to "Pay Attention,” according to Dr. P.M. Forni in his book Choosing Civility, then we must look at the effect we are having on others. For example, if you are sitting at your computer working and someone comes in to speak with you, you should stop working and actively listen to that individual. Remember this is an opportunity to build rapport with that individual, and value what they say. If you decide to keep working and not pay attention, the individual may feel that you do not value them. The relationship between you and that person will diminish. When speaking with others actively listen to them without interruption. Being attentive to others will have an effect on their behavior toward you.
To apply being attentive to your environment and others you must first realize that paying attention is a learned behavior and not one with which you were born. Being attentive is a practiced art. You must notice when you are not paying attention to others around you, and correct the behavior. As with the adolescents at the pool, you need to recognize the behavior that is impacting others around you. Is it a behavior that you would want in your environment? Ask yourself what steps you can take to correct these behaviors. Second look at how you interact with the people around you. Are you actively listing to others? As in the example of the worker at their computer station, is your behavior one that you would want others to display to you? Acknowledge the value in what other people have to say. Seek opportunities to hone your abilities to pay attention.