Sunday, December 19, 2010

Humility Is Necessary To Civility

In a New York Times article about Diane von Furstenberg, the dress designer talks about her fashions in Beijing. Leaping from the article at me was not the content  -  about the expansion of her fashion company into China -- but how inclusive and friendly she appears to be. One can almost imagine knowing her already. Better, she could be one of your most likeable, best friends. This empathy must be a secret to her great success, apart from the actual product of clothing -- her DVF dress she is most known for.

The quality and viewpoint of any writing, as well as the content, to be sure, hook readers. The author of the DVF article could have turned against her with a different choice of words giving readers distinctly opposing impressions of the same person.

Journalistic stance saturates partisan politics; it goes with the territory. The truth gets slanted, warped and all but unrecognizable; aided and abetted with convenient deluges of statistics, many of which cannot be instantly verified in real time and then disputed, whether on television or in print. Politicians look weak if they do not have the numbers at their disposal. Even if numbers are wildly inaccurate, the fact they are said can make them believed. In the United States today, someone saying the most common place comments, whether they tell the truth or not, can bolster their comments with a few well-rehearsed statistics, and then turn into a brilliant celebrity.

It also happens with real estate. Agents can turn against other agents, houses, buyers. Attitudes are formed by knowledge, sometimes misinformation.

Sadly, people can misuse the natural tendency of others to believe and exploit that quality. We must be educated to be skeptical and question. We aren't always perfectly correct, but then neither is anyone else, as far as the truth is concerned. We all make mistakes when we try to master a new concept, a skill, a challenge. Often, we need to heed warnings. At the same time, just as we know we cannot be completely correct, neither is anyone else. The humility to understand that idea is a foundation stone of civility.

I see arrogance all over the place, and have to consciously calm myself often to remain civil. Have you had kind thoughts about someone until something makes you question that person's psychological stability, and maybe disappoint you? What methods do you use to remain civil, polite and well-liked when someone says something a bit, well, crazy?

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