Millennial Generation’s Hope for Civility

WSEach week we look for what others are saying about civility. Last week, public relations firm Weber Shandwick along with public affairs firm Powell Tate, published the fifth installment of research related to civility in America.  Their focus this year was on the Millennial Generation (age 18 to 33).  This demographic is 83 million strong.  Millennials are approximately eight million larger than the Baby Boom generation.

If you are involved in education, marketing, or talent development, the results of this research are worth analyzing.  Read the report here.   A high level overview is presented in this inforgraphic: all generations see incivility as a problem but Millennials believe it can improve.  They believe schools should teach civility, and they are the generation that is most willing to take proactive actions such as defending a person who has been treated uncivilly, writing letters to report uncivil behavior, and quitting  a job or moving to a new living situation in order to get away from uncivil behavior of others.

The Wallace Centers of Iowa  is a non-profit organization with the mission of enriching community through sustainable food and civility initiatives. We teach civility as foundational component to leadership and talent development.

Civility and Brain Science

What does the latest research on the brain, especially from a new field of interpersonal neurobiology, have to teach us about civility?

Consider a time when you have noticed that feeling of confusion when a conversation or interaction goes awry. We often say, after a time to reflect on such difficult conversations, “I wish I would have said…”

The reason for this confusion is based on what we now know about the way the brain processes emotional information. If a conversation violates our values or deeply held perspectives, we have a physical reaction: Our brain tells us to fight or flee. This physical reaction can be as strong as if there were an actual threat like an animal attacking us. Because the emotional center of brain is engaged, the prefrontal cortex, where integration and rational thinking occurs, is not available to us in that moment.

Learning to notice emotional information and allowing yourself time to process it is a skill that can be learned and the first step you can take toward a more civil response.

If you have attended one of our workshops or are curious to understand more about the field of interpersonal neurobiology, here is a resource from the work of Dr. Dan Siegel.


What is civility?

There are many ways to define civility.  Here is a typical dictionary definition from


noun sə-ˈvi-lə-tē

: polite, reasonable, and respectful behavior

civilities : polite actions and words

At The Wallace Centers of Iowa, we define civility in two ways.

First as small actions that lead to respect for others.

We also believe civility is a set of skillfully applied behaviors that lead to positive working relationships and environments.