June 26, 2013
The Best-Of Civility

Civility is free and rewarding. According to award-winning professor at John Hopkins University, Pier Massimo Forni, “civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another. It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication. Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners, as well as a matter of good health.” We don’t think we could have said it any better myself.

Over the next few weeks, we will be reflecting on the Spirit of Competition program, whose core themes are failure, civility, rivalry, passion and innovation. This week we will be focusing on civility, which we highlighted on our blog last fall. Check out our top 5 picks from the theme:

1. 110 Rules of Civility

This set of rules were composed by French Jesuits in 1595 and later hand copied by President George Washington at the age of 16. These rules represent more than just manners. They are the small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird shows that the best way to deal with failure is with civility. Atticus, a prominent lawyer in Maycomb, normally wins every case, but during a crucial point in the book, he loses an important case. Atticus handles this defeat with class and grace, setting him apart from the uncivil town of Maycomb.

3. Roncalli’s Junior Varsity Girls’ Softball Team Defines Civility

In 2010, Roncalli’s junior varsity girls’ softball team (who hadn’t lost a game in 2½ years), purposely offered to declare defeat against Marshall’s team who had never played a game before. Roncalli spent those two hours teaching the Marshall girls how to improve in the sport.

4. Online Civility in Business

Imprecise language can result in misinterpretation and irritation in a format that is harder to fix than verbal miscommunication. Diane Howard, Ph.D, offers some guidelines she feels are essential for work emails:

  • Use appropriate etiquette.
  • Don’t say anything electronically that which would not be said face-to- face.
  • Don’t vent emotions.
  • Be careful of what might be offensive to other cultures.
  • Be careful of the tone of messages.
    (a) Don’t be so short, concise, or direct that messages sound brusque or rude.
    (b) Use adjectives or adverbs to clarify tone.
    (c) Avoid sarcasm, which could be misinterpreted…
  • Refrain from pre-mature judging or attacking.

5. American’s Role in Political Civility

If we want civility in American politics, we need to promote civil discussion, writes our intern Jenny Kalvaitis in a blog post during the 2012 election cycle. After the first debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama last fall, Obama was mocked mercilessly for his performance on SNL. Ultimately, if we want to have civility in politics, she says, we need to first look at ourselves.

Civility can be a difficult characteristic to maintain in the negative world we live in today, but we must strive to respect opposing views, tolerate those who are unkind, and play fair,” we can infuse a little more civility into the world. What do you think? How are you helping to promote a more civil society?. Join us next week as we share the best-of rivalry!

“Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.”

– Mary Wortley Montagu, British author and letter writer


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