Service of Civility: Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate Survey and East Hampton, N.Y. Manners

August 12th, 2013

Categories: Civility, Communications, Ethics, Manners, Real Estate

Sometimes I think I live on the moon. I was reading Nicholas Joseph’s highlights on researchscape.com of a survey of a thousand Americans that KRC Research conducted for Weber Shandwick and one of its divisions, Powell Tate. I’m in sync with the condition but not with the cause to which 80 percent of respondents attributed incivility: Government leaders.

What about parents and guardians? Is this another game of hot potato where nobody wants to be left holding the vegetable when the music stops?

Joseph wrote: “Civility in America remains at a steady low level as 54% of Americans expect civility to continue to decline in the next few years….. With Americans encountering incivility more than twice a day, on average, and 43% of respondents expecting to experience incivility in the next 24 hours, dealing with incivility has become a way of life for many.

“Many Americans believe that uncivil words are provoking harmful deeds: 81% of respondents believe that uncivil behavior is leading to an increase in violence in our society. Respondents view the government, general public, and large corporations as uncivil, while they see local news, small businesses, and their community as civil.

69% of respondents view the government as uncivil

63% think that the American public is not civil

63% also view the media as uncivil”

I’d like to insert easy access to guns also leads to an increase in violence.

Toward the end Joseph added: “The level of civility will not improve until government leaders act more civilly and 83% of respondents think that politics is becoming increasingly uncivil.”

Granted, the survey blamed the American Public second after government…but that’s far too fuzzy for me. It’s not the public but a person that lets a door slam in my face as I enter an office building with my hands full; watches the elevator door slap shut as I’m about to step inside or crashes into me on the sidewalk without taking a breath to apologize.

Respondents—70 percent–also directed fault at the Internet. Almost half  have blocked missives from an uncivil offender while Joseph reported cyberbullying has increased 15 percent since 2011.

Manners are a first cousin of civility and Jim Rutenberg focused on the former in the title of his New York Times column, “Mind Your Manners, Or Else.” Datelined East Hampton N.Y., the first instance he described—of a hedge fund person and Wall Street lawyer trying to scam a local real estate company of its fee by leaving behind notes in one property asking the homeowner to deal directly with them—wasn’t about manners, it was about ethics and honesty.

After mentioning venues that capture unmannerly behavior, such as TheRudeHamptons.com, Curbed Hamptons and twitter character Joe Schwenk, whose handle is @HamptonsBorn, Rutenberg continued: “‘The Hamptons are, first and foremost, the locus of all this stuff: It’s where the powerful, the glamorous, the rich and the exalted go to summer,’ said Neal Gabler, the Amagansett-based author. ‘Because it’s their playground, the place where they can let themselves loose, it’s the place where you are likely to see them do things that they wouldn’t do in their own environment.’

“Mr. Gabler, who wrote the seminal biography of the gossip columnist Walter Winchell (“Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of the Celebrity”), views the sites devoted to reporting on suspected misdeeds as practicing a form of homegrown gossip columnizing, the whole basis for which, he said, “is essentially to equalize and take down the mighty to make sure they know they’re not better than we are.”

Manners apply whether or not you are rich or important or think you are. Some have them regardless, others don’t.

Definitions of “civility” and “manners” widely differ so we would naturally have diverse expectations about each. Is the reason we step on one another therefore inadvertent? I’m also curious about why survey respondents leave themselves out of the equation on the subject of civility and point far away to government and the public.

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4 Responses to “Service of Civility: Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate Survey and East Hampton, N.Y. Manners”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    On what premise was this poll based, especially in view of the fact that multiple studies (not to speak of personal experience) show that only a tiny percentage of the population can name it’s US Senator, Congressman, let alone lesser officials? If so few are able to name these leaders, who is in a position to comment on their behavior?

    Now, assuming 8 year old little Johnny is smarter than most, reads of President Obama’s recent rudeness towards Russia’s President Putin, just how far will he get if he uses that tactic towards his Aunt Millie?

    While many cultures have different ideas of civility and manners, simple consideration of others will solve most problems. In certain areas with vast cultural differences, the best policy is to ask for advice before visiting.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Such a good point about the lightweight engagement between Americans and their elected officials: Yet the ones they can identify distinguish themselves in outlandish, unethical or idiotic behavior. Maybe that’s what the respondents were thinking.

    The eight year old in your example may condifrt that President Obama was correct not to attend a summit with someone who is harboring Snowden, and while he might have heard heated debates on TV–which I doubt–it would be far more likely that he’d learn about incivility from some outrageous sports figures or movie stars than from any person associated with the government.

  3. NR Said:

    In a country as fractured and multicultural as ours is, I’m suspicious of any survey which purports to determine how civil we are to each other. “Civility” describes different behavior in different cultures. If I were asked to describe, based upon my experience, the civility of public servants in small, reasonably prosperous upstate towns, I’d say, very helpful and obliging; and was I asked the same question about my experience with them in big cities, I’d have to answer, unhelpful, arrogant and intimidating. I’ll also bet that you would get very different answers were you to ask the same question to the public servants.

    As to the sleazy hedge fund manager and Wall Street lawyer who tried to cheat that real estate agent out of her rental commission, from what I understand the Hampton’s current demographic makeup to be, they should receive a warm welcome from their new neighbors and be made to feel right at home. After all, the only difference between rich sleazes and very rich sleazes is a matter of money. Admittedly, I haven’t been near the Hamptons in 30 years.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    NR,

    Not all the neighbors are as sleazy as the two who tried to cheat the real estate agent as at least one of them–the owner of the house who reported what these would-be renters tried to do–was honest and prepared to pay the fee.

    And who would want such people in their home? They could trash the place and walk off without losing a minute sleep while slipping out of any obligation to restore the property based on the tricks of the lawyer or his/her colleagues. Writing about such uncivil behavior gives me chills.

    I used to love the Hamptons and the beach and like you, I haven’t been there in years as my life takes me to a different part of New York state. I wager, based on Neal Gabler’s description, that the best time to visit is before Memorial and after Labor Day.

    It’s a shame when people with advantages give the rich a bad name. I’m all for striving to be rich and know plenty of people in this category who do not conduct themselves in uncivil, unmannerly ways–just the opposite, in fact.

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