Leader driven Harmony #15: If you are Civil, you will get (more) beer – Part II

by Mack McKinney on March 11, 2011

In our last post we discussed three reasons to become a more civil person:  People will notice you, you will make more friends and you’ll have lowered blood pressure and will live longer.  OK, that’s actually four reasons, but here is the biggie:

You’ll Get Noticed – How many people you know are living in accordance with the Desiderata we asked you to read last week?  Not many, I’ll wager.  It is tough work and most people won’t do it, especially the part challenging us to . . .

“Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,

even to the dull and the ignorant;

they too have their story.”

We have pretty much lost the skill of polite, civil conversation in the USA.  These magic skills were once taught as “social manners” to school children by parents and teachers in America and they still are in England and Australia.  But here it is increasingly uncommon to find people who, at the dinner table with people they just met, can effortlessly do the following four things:

  1. Genuinely ask about the new person’s job, family, hobbies, towns where they have lived and what they thought of them, etc.
  2. Get other people to talk about themselves more than half the time and show sincere interest when they do.
  3. Never ask about, nor bring up subjects dealing with, politics or religion.
  4. Deftly and quickly change the subject when awkward comments are made or sensitive subjects arise, for example politics, religion, Middle East conflict, abortion, etc.

Do those four things and I promise you great things will happen.  For example, I was fortunate to work with the Australian Government for a period of time and I witnessed two remarkable activities: “Tea time” and “Prayers”.  Neither is what you might think.

  • Tea Time was (and may still be) a twice-daily social gathering of seemingly most everyone working in the Australian Embassy in Washington DC.  This Aussies-only event in the big ball room (where some delightful Christmas parties were held) was a 30 minute break from duties and deadlines, ringing phones and emails.  I was the only non-Aussie I ever saw at “Tea” and had been to the Embassy several times before my Aussie friend Richard Hodge of DSTO invited me.  He later explained that meetings with outsiders were scheduled to never overlap Tea times of 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM, since taking visitors to tea was dangerous and hence frowned upon.  This was because the topics of work, politics and religion were forbidden at Tea and they had found that most Americans had lost the ability to relax, speak softly, enjoy the quiet and engage in sincere, gentle, civil conversation with strangers.  I found the experience calming, not at all boring and I was then invited to come to Tea whenever I was at the Embassy anywhere near Tea time.
  • Prayers were a Friday afternoon tradition and non-Embassy visitors were occasionally invited to attend prior to heading home.  It was an honor to be invited by your Aussie Embassy host to “stay a little late on Friday and go to prayers with us”.  It meant you were a civil companion who would not embarrass yourself or the host in the company of the Ambassador and other dignitaries who often attended Prayers.  The Australian Embassy in DC had a very old cellar that had served as a chapel for years.  The Aussies always had an end-of-week service there on Friday at about 4:30 PM at which the Embassy’s Chaplain said a prayer of thanks for the previous week, asked for strength tackling the next week’s challenges, and asked for safe travels for everyone in attendance. Then the draft Fosters beer started flowing long into the night. (Most DC-based Embassies’ customs-exempt “diplomatic pouches” are briefcases; the Aussie’s “pouch” is a 40 foot tractor-trailer.  Beer kegs take up a lot of room!)

I had great times, with great people, at Prayers.  Thank you, my Aussie friends.  And I always got home safely.  Thank you, Chaplain.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Related Articles

Previous post:

Next post: