In the December 1, 2014 edition of The New Yorker, an article entitled The Civility Wars caught our attention. It brings to light concerns with the concept of civility. The article refers to the work of civility expert P.M Forni, whom we have reviewed here.
Hua Hsu, author of the article, writes:
The language of civility has always been a code of sorts, a way of holding life’s quotidian messiness up against lofty, sometimes elitist ideals of proper behavior.
Later he puts a finer point on his argument:
The problem with civility is the presumption that we were ever civil in the first place.
As promoters of civility, we recognize that there was no time in history when humans were idealistically civil. We know that humans don’t always, and never have, consistently displayed behaviors that promote respect for others.
We are not suggesting an old-fashioned, mannerly approach to the workplace. We define civility as small actions that lead to respect for others. Mandating actions or behavior is generally a troublesome idea. Mandating something that has never been consistently achievable sets us all up for potential failure.
Instead, we recognize that there are people out there who take responsibility for being the “good” they want to see in the world. Our goal is to generate discussion about what actions impact respect for others and what the benefits can be when people choose to apply civility practices.
We also hope to encourage individuals to reflect on small actions that matter, determine the personal benefits, and consider how to implement those actions into their work.
What do you think? Tweet us at @seedsofcivility
The Seeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa. Here we cultivate conversations about civility in the workplace.