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Resolve to be a More Ethical Person in 2017

This is my last blog of the year. Going forward, this blog site will serve as an archive for my blogs through 2017. Please visit my new website, Steven Mintz Ethics, for future blogs and to sign up for a free Newsletter prepared for my loyal followers. HAPPY NEW YEAR! MAY 2017 Bring peace and Happiness to you and yours.

The Keys to Doing Good by Being Good   

              You’re probably familiar with the expression: It’s not what you say – it’s how you say it. Communication is about content and delivery. Let’s take assertiveness, a behavioral characteristic that means to be forthright, positive, and insistence on the recognition of one’s rights. Assertiveness means standing up for your personal rights – expressing thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in direct, honest and appropriate ways. It means taking into consideration your own and other people’s rights, wishes, wants, needs and desires.

            However, an excess of assertiveness may turn into aggressiveness where one person acts in a hostile fashion. A deficiency of assertiveness may lead to passiveness that manifests itself in a tendency to comply with the wishes of others and to subjugate one’s needs and individual rights to another. Many people adopt a passive response because they have a strong need to be liked by others.   

               Let’s assume your next-door neighbor tends to park his car blocking a portion of your driveway. It’s irritating to say the least. What will you do? What should you do? You can loudly knock on his door, avoid the pleasantries, raise your voice and accuse him of being inconsiderate. This is likely to evoke a similar, emotional response and, perhaps, an angry complaint about your leaving your barking dog outside too long. Before you know it, the matter escalates and creates a contentious relationship between you and your neighbor that’s not going to bring happiness for either of you on a long-term basis.

At the other extreme, you can ignore your neighbor’s parking habits, but sooner or later you will come to resent the neighbor even more even though it was your failure to attend to your own needs that led to the feeling of resentment. There is, of course, no right answer but the end goal should be to resolve the issue in a way that promotes harmony, not discord. In this sense, harmony is the mean (i.e., virtue) between being excessively angry and being too slow to anger.

So, what is an appropriate response? Here’s one idea: Knock on your neighbor’s door. Greet your neighbor by saying “Howdy neighbor – how y’all doing?” If you’re not in Texas, it’s best to say: “Hello neighbor. How are you today?” This breaks the ice. Then, politely say something like this: “I have a favor to ask. Sometimes I have difficulty backing out of my garage so I wonder if you could move your parked car a couple of inches back. I’d really appreciate it. Often, your attitude will evoke a positive response and all will be well.

As we approach 2017, resolve to being a more ethical person. All of us can improve in that regard. Commit to promoting civility whether in your personal life, in the workplace, or social media postings. It’s nice to set goals to lose weight or go to the gym more often. But, that’s not going to make you a better person. Being honest and ethical can lead to happiness as the ancient Greeks posited in their concept of virtue. It’s been said that virtue is its own reward. Being a better person will lead to others treating you better, which leads to greater harmony in your life, which leads to greater happiness.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on December 27, 2016. Dr. Mintz is Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: www.workplaceethicsadvice.com.