This book review in the Times-News of Burlington, North Carolina includes approaches to promoting civility that are spreading throughout the country. It’s a refreshing development.
Reviewed by M.J. Wilkerson / Special to the Times-News
• “Choosing Civility: the Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct,” by P.M. Forni. Copyright 2003, St. Martin’s Press, 208 pages, $12.99.
I’ve been watching a lot of football, now that fall has arrived. In addition, I’ve been keeping an eye on political ads since it’s also election time.
What I see there and in other aspects of our society demonstrate to me that there is a real need for us to learn to practice the art of civility. This doesn’t mean bowing down and being a doormat. Rather, it means being able to have discussions and to disagree in ways that maintain the dignity and respect of both parties.
All Alamance County Public Library staff members were required to read P.M. Forni’s book, “Choosing Civility: the Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct” this past year. Between January and May, staff participated in group discussions that examined the 25 practices mentioned in the book and how these practices are applicable to our personal and work lives. We are particularly interested in looking at how to apply these practices to the operation of our organization so that we may better serve the public.
Forni begins the book by asking “What is Civility?” and gives several examples, such as saying please and thank-you, welcoming new people to our office or neighborhood, using our turn signals when we are driving, giving directions to someone that is lost. One thing that he points out that I really like is disagreeing with poise and yielding with grace when losing an argument. I believe that this behavior is also necessary when winning an argument.
In the chapter titled “Nice Guys Finish Last, or do They?” Forni points out that some people believe that there is no room in our society for civility, that our aggressive and competitive society doesn’t allow room for being civil to each other. He is quick to explain that being civil, or “behaving in a manner that takes into consideration the feelings and the comfort of others,” doesn’t preclude being strong and/or standing up for yourself. Rather, he reminds us that, by treating each other in the best way we know how, we encourage others to reciprocate. He believes that by following the rules of civility in our everyday lives, we put into practice the principle of respect for all persons.
Communities across our nation are embracing the call for civility. Folks in Howard County, Maryland, began a project called “Choosing Civility;” the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation in Minnesota put together something they call “Speak Your Peace;” and people in Oshkosh, Wis., created “The Oshkosh Civility Project.” Business leaders, government officials and all citizens are encouraged to participate and to be aware in all their interactions, to carry out the concept of choosing civility.
Our library staff members have made a conscious decision to practice civility, both with the public and with each other. We hope to see this practice take root in our community as we learn to treat each other with dignity and respect.
M.J. Wilkerson is director of Alamance County Public Libraries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 229-3588.