Article: Using Civility in Social Interactions

Using Civility in Social Interactions

“Courtesy, politeness, manners, and civility are all, in essence, forms of awareness. Being civil means being constantly aware of others.” -P.M. Forni – Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct

“Civility is not about dousing strongly held views. It's about making sure that people are willing to respect other perspectives.” -Jim Leach, former member, U.S. House of Representatives

“Be excellent to each other.” -Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

While definitions of civility may differ, most speak about the manners and etiquette that promote respect, consideration, and even love for fellow citizens. Any way you look at it, the principles of civility are apparent in all of our social interactions. The key often lies in understanding certain cues that can help govern how civil, or uncivil, an interaction may be. The following interactions have become all too common in this day and age, and I am admittedly guilty of a few of them myself. Although some may seem benign in nature, each example carries a latent message that can result in incivility.

• Engaging someone who is on the phone (Message: My time is more important than yours)

• Approaching someone while wearing headphones with music playing (Message: I do not respect your personal space)

• Knocking on a closed door when a conversation is taking place (Message: Your business comes secondary to mine)

• Standing on the periphery of a group of people talking and interjecting your thoughts (Message: I need to know what’s going on, and my opinion must be heard)

• Looking at your phone while another has engaged you in conversation (Message: I don’t value what you have to offer)

Engaging in civility means recognizing the dignity of other human beings and showing behavior that reflects concern and regard for their time and well-being. It is a two-way street, however, and an interaction will only remain civil if both parties are aware of what it takes to treat others with kindness and respect. That is precisely why talking about civility is vital. Acknowledging the importance of the topic can help prepare you to deal with incivility in an effective manner. And it may also help you recognize different social cues so as to avoid uncivil interactions in the first place. We are all responsible for civility. That’s why simple, every-day acts like smiling, holding a door, or pointing someone in the right direction can be contagious. How we all act can help reinforce social standards, as ever-changing as that set of standards may be. Civility leads to kindness, respect, and compassion. In turn, all of those lead to happiness and, most importantly, community.