What is Civility?

What is Civility?

“Civility knows no boundaries, speaks every language, crosses every time zone, thrives in every culture, connects with every generation, is available to every person, and improves every situation.” Deborah King

What is civility? People talk about uncivil behavior, but it seems few are able to explain what civility is and what it looks like in day-to-day interactions.

The origins of the word Civility lie in its connection to Civitas, a Latin word meaning city and the French word Civilite which means politeness. Civility also shares a connection with the word civilization. Civility is about kindness, respect, caring and thoughtfulness. Dr. P.M. Forni, co-founder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project and author of Choosing Civility – the Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, notes that civility is a code of conduct based on the 3R’s: Respect, Restraint and Responsibility.

When I operate in a civil manner, I understand that every action taken somehow impacts others – whether I know them or not. Being civil requires that I not only consider my own needs, but I also consider the needs of those I come in contact with and how my actions may impact them. Here are four questions to consider when thinking of the 3 R’s.

  1. Are my words and actions respectful – to myself and to others?
  2. Do I use restraint when speaking – just because I ‘can’ say something, should I?
  3. Am I quick to take personal responsibility for the things I do and say?
  4. Am I being mindful that I live in community with others?

Practical ways to promote civility.

  1.  Begin at home. Treat family members with kindness and respect. A home void of civility leaves little chance for the members to be civil outside the home. It is at home that lessons of civility are learned and practiced.
  2. Acknowledge acts of civility. So often the focus is placed on acts of incivility and little is done to acknowledge those who are being civil. The Caught in the Act Civility Cards are a simple tool to do just that, acknowledge kind behavior.
  3. Take the civility challenge. May is Global Civility Awareness Month as noted by Chase’s Calendar of Events.  Ask your family and friends to join you in the 31 Days of Civility.

They say it only takes 21 days to start a new habit. Maybe, after 31 days, civility will become a greater part of our lives. I would love to hear what habits you have implemented as a result of the 31 Days of  Civility challenge.

©2014 What Would Mrs King Do? If you would like to use this article in your newsletter or blog, you may do so. Please include our credit information: Written by Deborah King, What Would Mrs King Do? © Copyright 2014. I would also appreciate it if you would send us a copy for our files to [email protected].

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