10 Keys to Civility
Why 10 Keys to Civility? Because It Matters is our mantra, our expression of belief in the importance of civility. But, we needed more. We needed some simple guiding principles to raise awareness and impact behavior. The Because It Matters volunteers turned to the literature on civility, including Robert Putnam's breakthrough book on social capital, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," as well as "Social Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman, but the most impactful book was P. M Forni's, "Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct."
Respect Others. The ability to see the actual individual is part of acknowledging each other, and the first step to positive regard. Respect for the whole person entails listening to others’ opinions, their feelings, their time, even their physical space. At the core of “respect others” is the “golden rule,” do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Think Positively. Wouldn’t life be more joyful if we all viewed it through a glass “half-full” rather than “half-empty”? Countless studies have demonstrated that those who think positively live longer and happier lives. In the context of Because It Matters, a positive attitude is an emotional contagion we want to spread.
Pay Attention. How often do we go through our daily routines as human robots with little awareness of others surrounding us? The root of “attention” is “to attend to.” That means that every act of acknowledgement or kindness begins with “attending to” the other person. In other words, to be at our best in our human encounters, get off of auto pilot and pay attention.
Make A Difference. Here’s an expression that has become such a part of our cultural lexicon that it has almost lost meaning. Almost is the key word, for the concept of making a difference has never been more valid. Our culture makes self-gratification a must-do, reducing the moral energy we have for others. Self-centered behaviors can put altruism in the back seat. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are opportunities to make a difference in every encounter.
Speak Kindly. The flip side of speak kindly is, Why be rude? Words of kindness can inspire others, lift their spirits, and even, as Forni writes, “reconcile them with life.” And isn’t that a great way to make a difference?
Say Thank You. Such a simple deed, the acknowledging of an act of service or kindness by saying “thank you.”
Accept Others. George Bernard Shaw, in his play “Pygmalion,” speaks of “having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in heaven…where one soul is as good as another.” That is the crux of accepting others: welcoming all with the same enthusiasm as we experience in the feeling of belonging.
Rediscover Silence. In an age when background noises are constant, some fear we are becoming accustomed to noise. Is that a problem? Noise can take us away from ourselves; silence can be the bridge to our innermost thoughts and tranquility. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Let us be silent—so we may hear the whisper of the gods.”
Listen. The act of listening takes work. Instead of focusing on what we want to say and our own needs, good listening requires that our attention go to others. How refreshing to demonstrate that we value others before ourselves. How non-competitive. How civil.
Keep Your Cool. Medical science tells us that nonassertive behavior is a health risk.
On the other hand, being a bully is just as unhealthy as being a doormat. The key is to find that happy medium where you express your needs without intruding on others’ needs and do it in a calm and kindly way.