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Posted Tuesday, September 22, 2009, at 10:33 AM

Outbursts in Congress, cursing on the tennis courts, and grabbing the mic from a young award winner; everyone is lamenting our loss of civility as more and more public figures continue to behave badly.

To quote my grandmother, I think someone has forgotten their manners.

It would be easy to go off on a rant about the disrespectful Congressman, the angry athlete or the scene-stealing rapper, but these people are not acting in a cultural vacuum.

Is it any wonder that the gentleman from South Carolina felt free to shout at the President of the United States when talk-show hosts win ratings with smear campaigns and candidates routinely engage in character bashing?

We might express shock over a female athlete screaming the "F" word at an official, but we've long tolerated shouting and cursing in sports. There have been numerous male tennis players who routinely berated officials. Their bad tempers became almost a joke, and their angry outbursts were often considered part of their strategy.

And if you think swearing is limited to the athletes, try attending a college football game. You'll be treated to thousand of drunks, shouting curses at the refs, the opponents and sometimes even their own coach and team, if they don't like the way the game is going.

As for the rapper, is it any surprise that someone from an industry that routinely disrespects women with nasty lyrics and dog-chain-collar costumes thinks nothing of stealing a young woman's moment in the limelight? It's kind of hard to imagine why a man would behave gallantly when so many of his peers are being rewarded for being rude and obnoxious.

Maybe I am turning into my grandmother, but this rudeness hurts my heart.

The simple solution is to criticize the individuals and to treat them as exceptions that should be shunned.

But this is a teachable moment for all of us. Rudeness isn't the real problem. The root of the problem is loss of empathy, and we've been given a golden opportunity to remind the world what it looks like.

Instead of focusing on how awful the offenders actions were, we ought to be asking people to think about what it feels like to be on the other end of uncivil behavior.

How would you feel if you were a line judge, trying to do your job in the game you loved, and a player practically accosted you, cursing at you on national television?

What would it be like to be a young woman winning one of the biggest awards of your life and have someone grab the microphone right out of your hand?

And yes, even the President deserves a little empathy. Criticizing policy is fair game, but how would like to be doing the hardest job in the world and have one of your colleagues treat you with less respect than he does the guard who walked you in?

So what's the solution? It's simple. Take a calming breath, think before you speak, and be nice.

The recent rash of rudeness is merely a symptom of a larger problem; we've forgotten that other people are human beings, too. They may get in our way in traffic, sing songs we don't like, make questionable calls on the line, or feel differently about health care than we do, but they're human beings, and they're just as deserving of respect as we are.

When we lose our empathy, we've lost our humanity, and if we lose that, we've pretty much lost everything.

So mind your manners, people. If you wouldn't want your grandma to hear it, then don't say it.

Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, syndicated columnist and inspirational thought-leader. A popular keynote speaker, Lisa is principal of McLeod & More, Inc., a training and consulting firm specializing in sales, leadership and conflict management. Her newest book is The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small (Jan 2010 from Penguin Putnam).www.LisaEarleMcLeod.com

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Angst is in the air: Be careful it's catching
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I can't take any more. The economy is tanking, the election is endless, and now it looks like I might have to sell my blood if I want to keep my kids in mac 'n cheese. Oh, and did I mention that, thanks to falling house prices, I probably owe more on my home than it's actually worth? I want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and have somebody wake me up when my 401(k) bounces back. I don't know about you, but I'm finding myself so jittery about, well everything, that it's all I can do to surf the net. Kind of ironic, isn't it? I should be working more, but I'm so anxious about my finances that I'm actually working less. Alas, such is the world of grown-ups - stress, anxiety, depression. And to think that I wasted much of my childhood wishing I could be in charge of my own life. Why in the heck did I ever think that was a good idea? Give me a few cookies, a blankey and a nice place to lie down and I swear I'll never complain about an early bedtime again. These are tough times indeed. Even if you're still OK, you'd have to be one cold, hard, rich person to stay immune to all the angst in the air. So how do you cope? How do you get through today when you're so worried about tomorrow that you can't see straight? I overheard a news commentator say that people are thinking twice before they go out to eat or buy new clothes. I'm guessing that those are the people who still have jobs. Because the people without jobs aren't spending a nickel on anything except cheap carbs and keeping a roof over their heads. Yet as depressing as our collective and individual situations may be, the last thing we need to do is let our fear get the best of us. If you spend all day quaking and anxious, guess who wins? The fear. Yes, I know FDR had a roof over his head when he said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," but he was right. Every moment you waste paralyzed with fear is a moment you could be doing something, or resting up so that you can do something tomorrow. It's been said that there are only two emotions, love and fear, and all the other emotions are derivatives of those. So I'd like to make a suggestion. Let's chose love. Let's decide to love each other and to love ourselves, no matter what happens. And if you're really a Pollyanna, perhaps you'll join me in deciding to love the fact that this crisis is serving as a call for us to become our better selves; a call for us to look within and rid ourselves of consumerism, greed and the need to keep up with the Jones; and a call for us to have more empathy for those who are struggling. Maybe this is a chance for all of us - and I include myself - to decide that we love our country and we love our fellow human beings more than we love our stuff. Yeah, I know it sounds hokey. But you don't change your circumstances until you change the thoughts that created them. Cowering under the covers in fear may feel safer. But in a crisis, the truly powerful response is love. (c) Copyright 2008, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved. Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author and nationally syndicated columnist. Her books include "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.