In July of 2008, my wife, Carol, and I stayed for few days at the Cannonboro Inn in Charleston, S.C.
Built in the 1850s, this bed and breakfast kept the flavor of that period. As expected, each morning the breakfast was delicious and the conversation with the owner and other guests delightful.
We scheduled the usual tourist events including a walking tour of historic downtown Charleston with a guide named Tommy Dew, a replica of the H. L. Hunley confederate submarine (the first to sink a warship in battle), and the Magnolia Plantation. They were all informative and I have written about them in my articles.
One of the most interesting tours was to Fort Sumter. We took a 10-minute ferry from downtown Charleston to the island where Fort Sumter once stood magnificently. The island was man-made with over 70,000 tons of granite and other rocks. What remains is the bombed out shell of the original structure with external walls repaired and a Spanish American War complex added. On April 12, 1861, the fears of 85 years of compromise were dissolved when the Confederate Gen. Pierre Beauregard fired upon Fort Sumter, which was defended by his former instructor Maj. Robert Anderson. After 34 hours of trading cannon and mortar fire with Fort Sumter in flames, Major Anderson surrendered. Amazingly no soldiers died in the battle.
According to experts, as this conflict escalated, both sides thought the other would pull back from the brink while each continued to harden its position. Even those who thought it would come to war believed it would last no more than six months. But like all wars, it took its own course once it began. In the end, about 700,000 soldiers and untold civilians were killed.
Fort Sumter is a place all Americans should visit especially on the 150th anniversary of the first shots of the Civil War. It is the place where almost a century of a stressed relationship between the northern and southern states was shattered. In most of the rest of the world by 1861, slavery had been abolished. The handwriting was on the wall. Had the South heeded the wave of change, perhaps they would have shed such a shameful practice and culture to reinvent themselves for the future. The price they and the entire country paid was terrible.
Don't let relationships escalate out of control with concrete positions and unkind words that cannot be withdrawn. Every disrespectful statement you can make can be made respectfully. And by making it respectfully, you generally are more able to get what you want. Also, respectful communication maintains and enhances the relationship for future successes. In my experience, there is no advantage to be disrespectful. Disrespect only limits our objectives and our ability to lead.
R. Glenn Ray is the president of RayCom Learning, which helps leaders who want to create an environment where people communicate clearly and choose to commit to organizational goals. He can be reached at 1-888-574-5370, by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or online www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.