Show a Little Dignity

A clear and gentle answer turns aside testiness.

Years ago I met a man who spoke of becoming enmeshed in a "multi-personed conflict" that spun out of control. An aggressive spirit of hate and vengeance saturated the attitudes and conduct of everyone involved.

When I asked how he resolved the mess, he mentioned a friend who confronted him and said, "Someone has to show a little dignity in this thing. It really should start with you." Apparently, it was the perfect rebuke, and it caused this man rethink his behavior and bring some sanity to the situation.

I've never forgotten that unusual phrase—to show a little dignity—and whenever I've faced testy situations where the next word or the next deed would either fan the flame of conflict or spread the oil of peace, the reminder that my dignity is in play has been helpful.

Testy situations? Here's a real-world example.

A few days ago, I was at Boston's Logan Airport to fly to Chicago. At the boarding-pass counter, I ran into a problem. When the boarding-pass lady looked up my reservation, ...

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