Under: martial arts
8 Aug 2010


How many times have you witnessed heated arguements between normally reasonable people but due to a political, religious or moral view – the discussion digressed into name calling? Whatever the point that started the discussion was lost as soon as they stopped listening to the opposing point of view. How about people treating others disrespectfully leading to undignified actions?


Does this apparent lack of civility, dignity and respect contribute to the apparent willingness of people to commit crimes? I mean if people have no apparent ethics or morals that enforce a code of reasonable behavior, how far behind is raping, plundering and murder?


People are a mixed bag. There are no all good people or all bad people. We all have our demons to wrestle – come to terms with if you will so we can get along well in life. Sometimes good people are tested by the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, growing up in a bad part of town,  or growing up with no real ethical standards. Some think music, video games, movies, and such contribute to this but I do not. What I think does contribute to how a person will react to situations are their own personal strength and their examples around them.


So in this post I am going to try and make the argument that good behaviour starts from within and is contagious. If we all try to work towards civility, dignity and respect of everyone around us – others around us will be more apt to see how this positive behaviour can help them communicate more effectively with those around them. I also think that people will be less apt to do bad things if they work on common civility and we will all have a better community. Here is what one city is trying to do. 




Working for a major corporation, I am used to this concept of treating everyone with civility and respect because we all have something positive to offer. There are however always challenges in dealing with people if different opinions because many of us think that the way we learned to do something is the right way. This is even more difficult cross-culturally but as I’ve said – I work for a company that has do a lot to help employees realize the benefits of working together.

Recently there has been a lot of heated discourse in America and I’ve been puzzled because in my experience as soon as a discussion becomes heated – each party digs in and stops listening. As soon as the listening stops you lose any chance of trying to show the other side the merits of your arguments!

I used to sell life insurance and one of the first things they taught me was to listen to prespective clients. As a salesman, you have little to no chance to sway another to your way of thinking unless you have built up a trust and mutual respect. The easiest way to do this is to show you care about the other person but using common courtesy and actually listening – even drawing them out to discover more about them!

I am not suggesting that you have to be friends with everyone but you should show common courtesy where possible and practical. If you cannot take the time to listen to them – at least try to be cordial and courteous. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I tried an experement with sloliciters at my home a few years ago. You see I used to be the kind of abrupt, highly opiniated (actually I’m still that), rude to people that had the gall to intrupt my time. I noticed that I had many verbal exchanges with these door to door salesmen almost getting physical sometimes. I thought back to when I used to be a salesman to see how I would have handled things then and I realized I was not giving them any respect.

So as a trial I started greeting and pleasantly listening for a bit to the speel of the salesmen and then kindly declining their offer and wishing them a good day and I noticed that I had no unpleasant incidents.

Wow I was able to reduce the number of angry confrontations to none by spending an additional minute with these salesmen. You see these salesmen were first and foremost people and consequently deserved a minimum standard of respect and dignity (that I was not previously showing them).

Incedently I have never reverted to my abrupt manner with salesmen. :)

Here is a common framework I found on youtube if you are interested. Remember just because you are pleasant does not mean you have to agree with the other position… just that you have to be open to the change if it makes sense. The other party will realize that you are being genuine and treat you better as well. It is infectious.



So now that you have been exposed to a common framework for reasonable discourse… what do you think? Can you see how treating people with respect might help you have some of your ideas listened to and lessen the negative responses – even if they do not agree with you?


I had one experience when I used to work the door, a bunch of guys came into the bar and a little guy was a jerk. He was messing with the girls and starting trouble. I went up to him and told him to knock it off… he started trying to fight with me. I laughed at him and told him we was too bleepin little to be messing with me! Well let me tell you he went out to his car and pulled out a 12″ blade and tried to get back to me. He buddies held him back but I realized that even this little guy deserved common respect and dignity. Had I still enforced the rule but just tried talking to him or restraining – ejecting him from the bar – his manhood would not have been affronted. I ended up creating a situation by my poor handling of the situation.


I’ll close with this Kung Fu perspective of respect that I pretty much agree with as everyone deserves to be treated respectfully. I hope you have enjoyed this little detour from my normal far of martial arts topics.



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7 Responses to “Civility, Dignity & Respect; Ethics in Self Defense!”

  1. Antonio M Matioli Says:

    A Importância de Ser Você Mesmo!

    Certo dia, um Samurai, que era um guerreiro muito orgulhoso,
    veio ver um Mestre Zen.
    Embora fosse muito famoso, ao olhar o Mestre,
    sua beleza e o encanto daquele momento,
    o samurai sentiu-se repentinamente inferior.
    Ele então disse ao Mestre:
    – “Por quê estou me sentindo inferior?
    Apenas um momento atrás, tudo estava bem.
    Quando aqui entrei, subitamente me senti inferior
    e jamais me sentira assim antes.
    Encarei a morte muitas vezes,
    mas nunca experimentei medo algum.
    Por quê estou me sentindo assustado agora?”
    O Mestre falou:
    – “Espere. Quando todos tiverem partido, responderei.”
    Durante todo o dia, pessoas chegavam para ver o Mestre,
    e o samurai estava ficando mais e mais cansado de esperar.
    Ao anoitecer, quando o quarto estava vazio,
    o samurai perguntou novamente:
    – “Agora você pode me responder por que me sinto inferior?”
    O Mestre o levou para fora. Era um noite de lua cheia
    e a lua estava justamente surgindo no horizonte.
    Ele disse:
    – “Olhe para estas duas árvores, a árvore alta
    e a árvore pequena ao seu lado.
    Ambas estiveram juntas ao lado de minha janela durante anos
    e nunca houve problema algum.
    A árvore menor jamais disse à maior
    “Por quê me sinto inferior diante de você?
    Esta árvore é pequena e aquela é grande – este é o fato,
    e nunca ouvi sussurro algum sobre isso.”
    O samurai então argumentou:
    – “Isto se dá porque elas não podem se comparar.”
    E o Mestre replicou:
    Então não precisa me perguntar. Você sabe a resposta.
    Quando você não compara, toda a inferioridade
    e superioridade desaparecem.
    Você é o que é e simplesmente existe. Um pequeno arbusto
    ou uma grande e alta árvore, não importa, você é você mesmo.
    Uma folhinha da relva é tão necessária quanto a maior das estrelas.
    O canto de um pássaro é tão necessário quanto qualquer Buda,
    pois o mundo será menos rico se este canto desaparecer.
    Simplesmente olhe à sua volta.
    Tudo é necessário e tudo se encaixa.
    É uma unidade orgânica, ninguém é mais alto ou mais baixo,
    ninguém é superior ou inferior.
    Cada um é incomparavelmente único.
    Você é necessário e basta.
    Na Natureza, tamanho não é diferença.
    Tudo é expressão igual de vida.

    Antonio Prokae – Projeto karate na Escola



  2. Antonio M Matioli Says:

    Abraços e muito bom trabalho para vocês OSS

    paraceria em afiliafoe entre em contato que trocaremos cliks
    Antonio M Matioli recently posted..A Biografia do Mestre Gichin FunakoshiMy Profile

  3. Matt Klein Says:

    Hi John, this post got me thinking. Most of the training in manners and respect came from my mom. I am willing to bet that most others get the training from their moms as well. It starts in the home. We should thank our mothers (or fathers) for making us who we are.

    Also believe that big cities create an “anonymous mask” around people so they feel free to be as rude as they want with no repercussions. No one knows them. On the roads people are especially rude and careless. Lack of empathy is one of the biggest problems. When you started treating the door-to-door salesman with a bit of empathy and respect, you had a much better experience. That man or woman had bills to pay, a family to support, and real hardships just like the rest of us. I try to get our kids in the classes to put themselves in the position of the victim of a bully and ask them how they feel. It does wonders.
    Matt Klein recently posted..Teaching Children Martial Arts- My Guest Post at Martial DevelopmentMy Profile

  4. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Antonio, Thanks for the story – I translated it and it made a lot of sense.

    Hey Matt! Had not considered the “anonymous mask” but it makes a lot of sense. Easy to lose the empathy if no one will question ones actions. I agree that one’s upbringing is key. Thanks for your sage advice Matt.

  5. Accidential Aikidoist Says:

    I feel that the ability to give others dignity, respect, empathy, etc. is to first do that to yourself. It all starts with yourself.

    Random Question: What does the movie “Takers” have to do with this topic? I thought it was odd in a humorous way.

  6. Edward Says:

    This is totally a wonder read for me. I agree with you Accidential Aikidoist, respect for your self is very important to be able to get the true respect you are looking for for others. How could you get others to respect you if you don’t even have respect for yourself, right?
    Edward recently posted..Do What It Takes To Defend YourselfMy Profile

  7. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Accidental Aikidoist – thanks for stopping by… agreed. Not sure about “Takers” as I’ve not seen it.

    Hey Edward – yep… self-respect first!