Conflict Resolution: The Etiquette Connection Back »

Written by Karelyn Farrand (former SDSU Extension Regional 4-H Youth Program Advisor).

Hal Urban, educator, author and nationally known character education leader, begins his language talks by asking this question: “Which of the following types of language better represents the kind of environment you want to live in?”

  • Language that is . . . civil, respectful, courteous, kind, considerate, polite, gentle or
  • Language that is . . . rude, crude, raw, coarse, filthy, angry or mean

If you are like the majority of people the first list better describes the language you would like to hear.

Now ask yourself four questions:

  • Do I hear the type of language indicated in the second list?
  • Do I think I hear too much of the second list of language?
  • Do I use the second type of language?
  • Am I free to choose the type of language that comes out of my mouth?

If the first list of positive language is better and we are all free to choose it rather than the second list of negative language, then why do we hear so much of the negative language?

There are many theories about factors contributing to negative language. One is that the entertainment industry bombards us with shows that use negative language and glorifies it. It becomes cool when famous TV and movie stars, athletes and musicians use it. Some think, because people now days are stressed, in a hurry, frustrated and angry they express themselves by using negative language. And lastly, some think the negative language list is used because our culture has been steadily deteriorating. Letitia Baldridge, an authority on manners, stated, people use offensive language out of habit and because it has become so commonplace. Rarely, do people use offensive language with the intent of being offensive.

No matter where negative language gets its start, most people agree that negative language is a problem. So, is there anything you and I can do about this negative language problem? Baldridge suggests, we need to do a better job at home and in schools to help young people get started using manners and language. Experts agree we can make a difference in our schools and communities if we place a greater emphasis on positive language and etiquette.

Etiquette is a useful tool to treat people respectfully. Treating others the way we want to be treated can help us to avoid some conflicts. As the quote by American author, Eldridge Cleaver goes, “You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.” Which one you are, is up to you.

Now ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I “walking the talk”?
  • Would I want people to watch me on a TV reality show?
  • Am I using the “magic words” please and thank you?
  • Am I like Thomas Jefferson who said, “Sir, I will treat you as a gentleman, not because you are one, but because I am one"?


  • Take A Stand Curriculum, AgriLife Extension, September, 2009.
  • Positive Words, Powerful Results, Hal Urban, 2004.
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