Civility comes from the word civilis, which in Latin means "citizen". However, civility is much more than the individual in his or her actions as a citizen. When civility functions properly usually there are many citizens performing their civic duties by taking part in the political process (voting, governance), which is also known as civic engagement.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Developmental model
- 3 Worldwide civility
- 4 In the United States (U.S.)
- 5 In Canada (CA)
- 6 In New Zealand (NZ)
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
Civility is the action of working together productively to reach a common goal, and often with beneficent purposes. Some definitions conflate civility with politeness, which suggests disengaging with others so as not to offend ("roll over and play dead"...). The notion of positively constructive civility suggests robust, even passionate, engagement framed in respect of differing views. In his call for restoring civility, Pastor Rick Warren said, "In America, we've got to learn how to disagree without demonizing each other." Pastor Warren was speaking metaphorically, but the fundamental principle he is trying to restore is the idea that people can still work together even if they do not always absolutely agree with each other's point of view.
Community, choices, conscience, character are all elements directly related to civility. Civility is more than just having manners, because it involves developing a civil attitude and civil responsibility. Civility often forms more meaningful friendships and relationships, with an underlying tone of civic duty to help more than the sum of its whole.
When people engage in conversation together with civility being a focal point of the outcome in the situation, this is commonly referred to as civil discourse. Kenneth J. Gergen, an American psychologist, suggested that the opinions of all people from all parties must be respected when in civil discourse, as "the language of dispassionate objectivity". From time immemorial, Freemasonry has promoted democratic habits of honest listening and civil discourse. The origins of the Freemasons dates back to early stonemasons fraternities, and since then has preserved an open environment to allow for a democratic process for alternative ideas.
Late Middle English: from Old French civilite, from Latin civilitas, from civilis 'relating to citizens' (see civil). In early use, the term denoted the state of being a citizen and hence good citizenship or orderly behavior. The sense 'politeness' arose in the mid-16th century.
Adolf G. Gunderson and Suzanne Goodney Lea have developed a civility model which "stresses the notion that civility is a sequence, not a single thing or set of things." The model places various types of human situations with their results on a continua, which is measured on a scale ranging from "less civil" to "indifference" to "most civil."
Movement to foster worldwide civility
The International Day of Peace ("Peace Day") is observed by many countries on September 21. Peace day was first started in 1981 by declaration of the United Nations General Assembly. The voting was overwhelmingly in favor of enacting Peace Day, and so the observance was thus born. The goal of Peace Day is to help bring the world together, and share a collective attitude of peace and harmony. Many countries around the world celebrate September 21 as a day of non-violence and cease-fires to emulate the mission of global peace. Since its beginnings the day has spread more throughout the world, with many countries annually participating in this observance.
Participation is open to all people of the world. People may choose to celebrate Peace Day in different ways, but the goal is to have peace at the heart of all the activity's intentions. Individuals, businesses and organizations are also welcome and encouraged to celebrate Peace Day. Spreading peace and good will towards all mankind is the great aim that's in view for raising awareness for Peace Day.
In May 2007, the Global Peace Index (GPI) was launched in an attempt to measure the relative ranking of peacefulness around different countries around the world. Today, the Global Peace Index is maintained the Institute for Economics and Peace, and is conducted on an annual basis. The index primarily measures three different categories to determine the level of peace in the world. These levels look at the overall security, crime levels, and the build up of military forces. By measuring levels of peace, the hope is that a greater general awareness and attention is given towards making the world a more peaceful place.
In the United States (U.S.)
Before George Washington became the first president of the United States of America, he, as a young boy, wrote a publication called the Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation. Washington's book covered 110 rules on civility with a primary message to instill good manners. The book is listed in numeric format, listing each line as its own individual advice ranging in topics from how to dress, eat, and converse with people properly.
A letter written by John Adams, second President of the United States, confided to his wife about his "fear that in every assembly, members will obtain influence by noise, not sense". His letter goes on to warn that the dangers of not acting with respect or decency could cause government to come eventually come apart. Adams believes that a deeper respect is required from every rank in government, and not just its leaders, to be more fully effective.
In March 2010, author Anna Post published a book called Mr. Manners, Lessons from Obama on Civility, which highlights good manners from the President of the United States. The book is marked with Post's commentary along with pictures with President Obama's commitment to daily kind acts of civility.
In a 2012 a poll conducted by Weber Shandwick, their research concluded that 65% of Americans reported an increase in incivility due to a weakened U.S. economy during the Great Recession. Almost 50% of those same Americans surveyed indicated they have removed themselves from participating in any politics because of fear of incivility or bullying. Of the 1000 people surveyed, a follow-up study revealed that 86% of those people reported being subjected to incivility. In this report, a part of an annual follow-up research report in January 2016 sharing findings on attitudes and sentiment about civility, 95% of Americans believe that incivility is a very visible issue, while 74% recognized that civility in general has declined during the past few years. Since 2016 is a U.S. presidential election year, the research was correlated to how civility may impact the voting polls. The research shows that over 90% of voters find that the candidate's attitude and how civil they are acting will play a significant role in their voting decision.
Movement to foster civility in the U.S.
Many projects are led by State Supreme Courts to foster civility. One of these initiatives is led by the California Judicial Branch for their Civics Education Outreach program. The primary objective of this program is to teach young adults and students how democracy is supposed to function in the United States and other details about how legal processes work. The mission is to have students leave the program with a greater interest and understanding of U.S. courts, legal processes, and democracy.
In the legal profession
Penn State University conducted a study on perceptions of the legal professional and its relation to civility. They found that general opinion pointed to a drop or decline in civility with the legal profession. To counteract demeaning and unprofessional behavior, there has been several initiatives put in place by state bar associations. However, the legal profession is not the only industry that has adopted civility standards. Many other companies and organizations across several industries have adopted civility standards that have also help to increase workplace civility.
Numerous universities in the U.S., such as the University of Colorado, the University of Missouri, and California State University San Marcos have created programs designed to foster and define what civility means on their campuses. Some colleges, such as the Arizona State University, offer an undergraduate certificate in Civil Communication. Still other universities, such as Kansas State University, have developed programs in dialogue and deliberation which involve codes of behavior that foster constructive, civil discourse. Although many colleges have adopted programs to foster civility efforts, there are still many colleges and universities, including many of the Ivy League schools, that do not have or list no visible place online about any civility initiatives, codes or standards.
In the community
Numerous community groups have formed throughout the U.S. to restore constructive civility in the public space. The Civility Toolkit with approximately 300 civility tools aggregated by the Civility Center with a mission to help provide access to resources regarding civility and to help restore civility in society. Many of these groups are members of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. Other programs like iCivics, which was started by Sandra Day O'Conner U.S. Justice, provides educational tools for students that teach about the importance of actively taking part in democracy. Although some private schools offer courses geared to teach about the U.S. government and legal system, most public schools do not teach about the U.S. government until their junior or senior year in high school. To help bring these lessons into the classroom, O'Conner's program provides teachers with educational tools, such as printable goals, games, and various lesson plans.
Arnett and Arneson define civility "a metaphor that points to the importance of public respect in interpersonal interaction." The difference between tolerating someone, and respecting them are concerned with the outlook that toleration does not imply respect, but respect requires understanding of another person's perspective. Having social intelligence or "Social IQ" impacts our ability to empathize with people, and realize all people are human and that if respect or common ground cannot be met that we strive for at least toleration in order to be civil.
In Psychology Today, Price-Mitchell describes civility as a personal attitude that acknowledges other humans rights to live and coexist together in a manner that does not harm others. The Psychology of civility indicates awareness, ability to control oneself's passions, as well as have a deeper understanding of others are a part of civil obligation, which everyone should strive to participate. This may suggest that civility goes beyond mere toleration, but may inherently imply a mutual co-existence and respect for humankind. Some may relate this to the ideas expressed by singer John Lennon in the song "Imagine", with the words "Imagine all the people sharing all the world." Although the level of peace can be a subjective topic, many people would agree that it requires a certain degree of harmony and opposes violence in order to remain civil.
In the academic journal Philosophy & Public Affairs, Calhoun delineates civility as an element of dialogue that sheds light on "basic moral attitudes of respect, tolerance, and considerateness". The topic of civility is expansive, and can be viewed from many different perspectives. Calhoun considers civility to be a part of the moral virtues that can differ from what is socially acceptable, since what is socially acceptable is not always morally correct.
Lack of civility
Incivility is the polar opposite of civility, or in other words a lack or completely without civility. Verbal or physical attacks on others, cyberbullying, rudeness, religious intolerance, lack of respect, discrimination, and vandalism are just some of the acts that are generally considered acts of incivility. Incivility is a negative part of society that has impacted many people in the United States, but as the world is becoming increasingly more transparent in social interactions, it has become more increasingly apparent that incivility has become an issue on the global stage. Social media and the web have given people the ability around the globe to freely exchange ideas, but it has not come without its consequences.
Politicians in the U.S. have frequently cited that they encounter a lack of civility in their workplace, and have disregarded it as unfortunate aspect of politics, but polls indicate that "going negative" can help candidates win elections. During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump has regularly called his rivals "stupid, incompetent and losers".
Recognizing that incivility online, more commonly referred to as cyberbullying, has become an increasing problem that takes away from a positive online experience. Recognizing that people harassing others online has become a problem and can have negative consequences for businesses, many companies have stepped up to create more awareness and initiatives to help. Intel in collaboration with organizations such as the Born This Way Foundation and Vox Media have made an initiative called "Hack Harassment" aimed to increase awareness of online harassment and anti-harassment technologies. There is no claim of solution for what can be done to stop online harassment, but many studies suggest that a large number of people are harassed online. Although there are many tactics to block cyber-bullying, such as censorship and banning users from accessing a site, it does not correct the underlying issues on what causes it in the first place. Although blocking people online from bullying others may solve some of the issues on the web, it may only manifest itself in other forms offline and in person where the possibility for violence and other physical harm could take place.
On April 22, 2016 The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago released a report citing that 74 percent of Americans think manners and behavior have declined in the United States. In this study they discovered that people in most cases can agree with what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. They found that 8 out of 10 Americans find jokes made based on race, gender, or sexuality are considered inappropriate, but only a small amount of people owning up to actually making these types of jokes ever. Although there were some differences between age demographics on newer technologies, such as the use of cell phones. The report suggests that nearly half of all Americans 18-29 find it acceptable to use their cell phones in a restaurant, while less than 22 percent of people over the age of 60 years old agrees.
In the workplace
Recent studies and polls from 2014 indicate that Americans find workplace incivility to be a growing problem that has had a negative impact on them and their duties at work. One study's research suggests 60% of employees think that their co-workers' irritating habits to have negatively affected them at their job. In the same study, 40% reported that they are looking for another job opportunity because of another negative co-worker. These studies suggest that incivility in the workplace dampens productivity and an adverse effect on a organization's bottom line. Although this data is only looking to quantify how widespread workplace incivility is in the workplace, it does not account for how many people encounter workplace incivility and are not sure what they can do about it. Furthermore, it is not taking into consideration how many of these workplaces have civility tools or initiatives at the researched companies.
Numerous organizations, including the United States government, have actively attempted to put in place measures to prevent incivility in the workforce. One measure that was initiated to reduce workplace incivility, was processing cases of sexual harassment to be illegal, which is defined by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as being against the law in every state to harass any person during the employment or hiring process because of that person's gender. Harassment can include "sexual harassment", but is not limited to workplace bullying, cyberbullying, physical and verbal threats. Although many would agree that sexual harassment is an issue that should be illegal, it has really been in the spotlight of the attention in the U.S. since 1964. Because of the legal ramifications from poor prior classification of sexual harassment cases in the past, its boundaries were more loosely interpreted and more people were subject to unwanted contact or attention. Since this the term has been redefined, people are greater protected from a legal perspective in their place of work, but must actively participate in preventing these issues by speaking up and/or reporting issues. The definition for these laws are still being written today, as more people are speaking out against the abuse.
In Canada (CA)
Movement to foster civility in CA
In July 2012, the President of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada made a strong point on civility at the 5th Biennial International Legal Ethics Conference. Legislation is often very open for interpretation, unless strictly and prohibitively defined by law, but in most cases where the law is yet to be defined many lawyers can see opportunity to act immorally to win their case. The "anything to get the job done" mentality can not only have negative consequences in the legal system, but it could possibly further spread the potential for laws and regulations to be exploited in immoral manner.
Additionally, during 2012, the Law Society of Upper Canada decided that Joe Groia was guilty of his incivility to opposing counsel during his successful defense of John Felderhof from Insider trading and securities charges. On the same case, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed the decision of Bar of Quebec that Giles Dore was guilty of professional misconduct because of an uncivil letter he wrote to a judge. This high profile case brought a lot of attention to the legal definition of the word civility, and what it means to be civil in the legal profession. It has since defined a broader set of rules of what is legally considered civil in the court of law in Canada.
Since the case with Joe Groia, The Law Society of Upper Canada has launched several initiatives to guard against incivility in the Canadian legal profession. To enforce The Law Society's stance on the issues of civility in the Canadian legal system, they have issued verbal warnings to lawyers who are not civil with judges and other lawyers. The counter argument against civility measures in if the new guidelines inhibit their ability to defend their clients. Since laws and rules are often open to interpretation, some lawyers consider it a conflict of interest to be civil with their opponents as they do not believe there is any way to accomplish their goals while remaining civil.
In New Zealand (NZ)
Movement to foster civility in NZ
At a recent address with Gisborne's top businesswomen in early 2016, Lara Meyer an adviser to the Australian Government cited incivility in the workplace has cost New Zealand approximately $15 Million a year. Noting that Australia is also losing out about $26 Million a year due to a lack of workplace civility. There could even potentially be more loss that is unaccounted for in New Zealand businesses, as the cost of rudeness could be holding them back from working together more politely and agreeably.
Etiquette and language
Etiquette and society
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- "Guy Burgess, Ph.D. and Heidi Burgess, Ph.D." (2012). "Rick Warren's Real Reason: Why the Pastor Cancelled the Candidates". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
- Kenneth J. Gergen (2001). Social construction in context. pp. 71–5. ISBN 0-7619-6545-9.
- Charvonia, Russ (April 1, 2014). Civility [Civility]. The Short Talk Bulletin – via The Masonic Service Association of North America. (subscription required (. ))
Freemasonry has been a long standing supporter of allowing and perpetuation alternative voices and ideas, promoting democratic habits of generous listening and civil discourse.
- "Gundersen, Adolf G., PhD, and Suzanne Goodney Lea, PhD" (2001). "Please Please Me: Voluntary Civility Standards for Lawyers". Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
- "International Day of Peace". 2015. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
International Day of Peace (Also referred to as "Peace Day") is observed around the world each year on 21st of September. Established in 1981 by resolution 36/37, the United Nations General Assembly declared this day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. Furthering the Day’s mission, the General Assembly voted unanimously in 2001 to adopt resolution 55/282 establishing 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire.
- Information about indicators and methodology "2014 Global Peace Index" (PDF). Institute for Economics and Peace. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
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