Civility in the World and in the Workplace

This post is written by one of our facilitators, Patti Shank, so it may not reflect the opinions of the entire Chat2lrn crew.

I find the world to be a far less civil place than the one in which I grew up. Tolerance today seems to mean tolerance for those who share the same opinion. I’d like to see a return to civil discourse. One where we can learn from each other without  being in fear of being called names.

I see people expressing glee at putting others down. In fact, it seems to be a Facebook meme to do so. I told my Facebook friends a while back that I would be unfriending anyone that couldn’t act “civil.” And then I did so. I do not want to discuss things, even minor things, with people who do not know how to be tolerant and civil. The world has plenty of cruelness and I don’t see any purpose in adding to it. I am fine with spirited discussion. I learn a lot from it.

Civility must mean more than “politeness,” says Guy Burgess, Ph.D. and Heidi Burgess, Ph.D., Co-Directors, Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado in their essay, The Meaning of Civility (http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/civility.htm). They discuss civility in public discourse meaning the need to:

  1. Separate people from the problem: Focus solutions and not upon personal attacks.
  2. Obtain technical facts: Resolve factual disagreements and when this isn’t possible, determine the reasoning behind differing interpretations of factual information.
  3. Limit misunderstandings: Make continuing efforts to understand the views and reasoning of opponents.
  4. Use fair processes in appearance and fact.
  5. Look for win/win solutions.

My workplace is civil. We often have extreme differences of opinions about work-related things and the world in general. I am often “over-ruled” by others. (Waaa.) But we argue the merits of a proposition (#2, above) rather than about the people involved (#1, above) and win/win solutions (#5) are usually sought. We’re not perfect, but after reading 1-5 above, I think we do quite well. I have been in organizations where this has not been the case and the outcomes have been devastating. People simply stop communicating, or communicate only in cliques.

In his book, Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, Dr. P.M. Forni, a professor at Johns Hopkins University has provided a list of twenty-five rules that are essential in connecting effectively with others, including:

  1. Acknowledging others
  2. Listening
  3. Being inclusive
  4. Respecting even a subtle “no”
  5. Respecting others’ opinions
  6. Keeping it down (and rediscover silence)
  7. Respecting other people’s time
  8. Thinking twice before asking for favors
  9. Refraining from idle complaints
  10. Not shifting responsibility and blame

How importance is civility in getting your work done? In being able to learn? In having a world worth living in? What is our role in restoring civility to a world run by email, cellphones, and multitasking? These are some of the questions I wanted my PLN to help me answer. I hope you will.

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One thought on “Civility in the World and in the Workplace

  1. Pingback: Take the money or open the box | Lost and Desperate

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