Surely, Forrest Gump’s mother was not the only one to use this phrase. Mine did – frequently. It was her wise advice to be authentic – an important, if not critical, trait for successful collaboration, leadership, life. In our world today, so much of society is consumed with having super model good looks, ageless bodies, expensive cars, Armani suits, big houses in the “right” neighborhoods – you know the list – and with some twinge of shame I have to say that I, too, have found myself at times caught up in it all. It’s hard not to be when the media constantly floods every corner of our existence with images of – some world I hardly recognize.
We have become so adept at building facades around us in order to “fit in” to that bizarre image, that many no longer recognize themselves in the mirror or know who they are anymore. Having been an actor all my life, creating alternate existences, wearing another person’s skin for a while, does teach one to look for what is underneath the surface – what makes them tick. “Motivation” is an important concept in the theatrical world, and frankly, no less in the workplace, team, or community. All our behaviors stem from some incentive or fear, but those motivations can often be so deeply held, disguised or convoluted that we don’t understand them ourselves. How can we expect others to figure us out? All we can really go by when working (or playing) together, is what we see. “Intent” is not observable, so perception is in fact – reality. “Pretty is as pretty does” – how we act toward each other generally defines us in another’s eyes, and it’s often not so pretty. Ergo – incivility perpetuates itself in spite of ourselves and our best intentions.
There is a well known adage that I think would help us be more authentic in our relationships. “The Golden Rule” which appears in some form in basically all major world religions, as well as, in secular philosophies – treat others the way you want to be treated. If we would stop and think about the mirror effect our behavior may generate, perhaps we would curb the name calling, shouting, and physical retribution that shoots out uncontrolled. Some can practice this IF others are not behaving badly first. We are, unfortunately, as likely to meet bad behavior with an even worse retaliation, which only escalates from there. At some point, someone has to recognize the giant snow boulder barreling toward them, be the grown up, and break the cycle.
When incivility is all around you, ringing in your ears and raising your blood pressure…Stop, breath, and hear the voice of mom saying “pretty is as pretty does”… and make her proud.