Simply by taking this assessment, you’ve begun taking Personal Responsibility for your civility, shown a willingness to improve yourself, and an awareness that true civility may be lacking from your lived experience. While civility is more than manners and politeness, audit your Courtesy and how often you share that Courtesy with others. Simple changes can make a big difference in how you think about the transformative role of civility. A committed civility practice can help make sure these changes stick. When we put positivity out into the world comes it back to us in the form of joy. If that process repeats itself, person-by-person, interaction-by-interaction, we’ll have created a civility movement, and made the more world a more joyful place in the process.
The next challenge will be shifting your perspective from the inner-world of your experience to a broader understanding of your role in society as well as the needs and experiences of others. We call this ability to recognize our place in the world Humility, and being able to filter experience through the concerns of others, we call Empathy. These are foundational pillars to a fulfilling practice of civility and more joyful life. If you want to learn about these fundamentals, you should start with Civility Rules!
Civility Rules! is a practical, actionable guide for anyone hoping to restore civility and lead a more joyful life! Learn what you can do each day to make a lasting impact in your life and community and discover insights about the Six Pillars of Civility, Shelby Scarbrough’s own civility practice, and the time-tested rules George Washington lived by centuries ago. Pick up your copy today!. If you’d like to discuss your civility practice and ways you can improve, reach out today.
1) CIVILITY: We encounter incivility on a daily basis, whether we bring it upon ourselves or not. How we perceive our role in these encounters makes a difference. What is the best way to think about the problem of incivility?
CORRECT: d) If I want to create a more civil world, I should start living the change I want to see. (1)
We all make excuses when we feel surrounded by incivility. What difference can one person make? Some days it’s just all too much, too discouraging to bother making a difference. Other days we can’t even get our own homes in order, who are we to lecture others about civility? If others are so unconcerned, why does civility deserve our time and attention? The insidious part about these kinds of thoughts is the personal power you surrender to shape your own corner of the world. It’s an admission that you have no control over your life and what happens to you. How can anyone feel free, or feel optimistic and joyful about the world when their mindset tells them those feelings aren’t up to them? The reality is, we have to be the change we want to see, and we have the power to change our mindset, our behaviors, and ultimately the outcomes in our interactions and overall lives. The choice to be civil is yours and yours alone!
2) COURTESY: You share a post online and one of your friends comments with a differing view point. The issue is close to your heart so you respond passionately, but are dismissive of the other person’s opinion. The comments become uncivil, with many agreeing your friend is to blame for their dissenting views. After this encounter, the relationship is strained. What could you have done differently to create a more civil outcome?
CORRECT: c) I should not have let emotions guide me to dismissing my friend’s opinion at the outset. (1)
It comes down to being courteous with one another! Courtesy is the social contract we enter into just by virtue of being human. It’s the expectation to embrace the Golden Rule: to treat others as we would wish to be treated. Courtesy is civility in action, made real in the world when we make daily choices based on our commitment to being civil—this is where manners matter. Imagine if we all made our choices with courtesy in mind. Our words and actions would be filtered through our own experiences, leading to questions like “Would I like being spoken to this way” or “How would I feel if someone chose to remain ignorant of my culture?” Being mindful of these considerations not only leads us to better manners, but creates a perpetuating cycle of goodwill in which our conscientiousness is returned to us ten-fold.
3) PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY: Carol is stressed out. She’s often late for meetings or misses them without explanation. She’s frequently heard complaining about all the things and people who she perceives are making her life more difficult. Someone else is always to blame for the problems in her life. What should Carol do?
CORRECT: b) Carol needs to first assess her role in these encounters, own her mistakes, and be accountable for her words and actions. (1)
We all make mistakes, behave in unflattering ways, say things we regret. When we try to cover up those missteps, the weight of shame and the fear of getting found out can manifest in uncivil behaviors like blaming others for our difficulties, constant complaining, poor time management, and a general lack of respect for people and their time. What’s missing is personal responsibility, being accountable for one’s words and deeds. Sure, it’s hard to admit our imperfections. However, when we become accountable for ourselves, we create opportunities to learn and grow from our mistakes, rather than being too embarrassed or prideful to admit we got it wrong and move forward.
4) HUMILITY: Don has been a boss for as long as he can remember, and he likes it that way. He had to pay his dues, and he’ll make sure that everyone on his team will too. He has high expectations for his teams and he makes sure they know it. Their accomplishments are his, after all. Despite strong performance, Don’s team is beleaguered and morale is low. The environment is borderline toxic. What’s ailing Don’s team?
CORRECT: a) Don is not leading from a place of humility and treating his team members like servants. (1)
Our theoretical Don only sees what the world has taken from him. He believes that the price he has paid to get to the position he is in endows him with power that simply no human has the right to claim. He is ungenerous, takes things personally, and is easily frustrated with people because of their inability to connect with him. Don is leading with pure hubris, and his team knows it. What his leadership needs is an injection of humility. The word humility implies a genuineness of spirit. People are drawn to those who continuously and genuinely exhibit such qualities—we instinctively trust them. If Don focused less on himself and more on his team, the resulting humility would lead to gratitude for the effort his team is making and what they are accomplishing. Wonderful things begin to happen when people feel appreciated for their contributions!
5) EMPATHY: You’re home for the holidays and having the same argument with the same uncle you have every year. You have the points you want to make sure you get to make. So does he. As you both talk past each other, tensions escalate and incivility has shown up for the party. Neither of you have learned anything from the experience, and only gained a deeper resentment for each other. What could the two of you have done differently to invite more empathy to the conversation?
CORRECT: d) Resolved to be active listeners so we could actually understand and appreciate where the other was coming from. (1)
Without being an active and attentive listener, empathy is impossible. And too often we find ourselves doing little more than sitting idly by waiting for our turn to speak, making no effort to perceive the world through the other person’s eyes, to try and make their experience our own as we seek to understand each other. When we make active listening a priority, we’re creating space for empathy to flourish. We respond rather than react. We become more self-aware of our role in the engagement. We’re more receptive to criticism because we have a better understanding of where that criticism is coming from. And we make ourselves more trustworthy and approachable by showing others that they will be listened to when we talk.
6) TRUST: Greg is someone who values trust, but cannot seem to trust anyone. He is suspicious of most people, often questioning their character behind their back. He always has his guard up but is frustrated that people never seem to show him their true self. What’s really troubling Greg?
CORRECT: b) Greg is untrustworthy. Trust is a two-way street and he refuses to hold up his end of the bargain. (1)
One wonders if Greg ever considered what his own guarded nature communicated to others. Real trust requires a certain mutual vulnerability that can be challenging for many. Yet, without trust, life can feel like a long and lonely road. Paradoxically, we deplete lots of energy keeping our guard up just to preserve what’s “ours” to protect. What do we think would happen to Greg’s suspicious perception of trust if he were to break down some of his walls only to be validated in that trust? If we could simply keep secrets, honor promises, and not talk behind people’s backs, we could see all that’s possible when we earn each other’s trust on a daily basis. Humans need connection to other humans. With genuine two-way trust, not only can we survive, but we also can thrive.
7) RESPECT AND HONOR: Jenny is feeling unfulfilled in her career. She’s advanced enough to create a decent life for herself, but knows she is capable of so much more. Yet, at every pivotal moment she’s taken the path of least resistance, opting for the easier way forward, and accepting any credit given, even if it was undeserved. It was never a question of doing the right thing or the easy thing, just the best thing for her in the moment. Do the ends justify the means?
CORRECT: c) No, Jenny’s feelings of dissatisfaction are understandable because her actions are dishonorable. (1)
Depending upon your sensibilities, there might not be anything wrong about Jenny’s actions. Humanity is replete with gray areas, no doubt. But, it’s clear that Jenny is not doing right by limiting herself for the sake of convenience. Yet, at the same time, by always choosing the easiest path, she is being deeply selfish, depriving others of the recognition they deserve to advance in a career she might not even want. It’s no surprise that she’s feeling deeply dissatisfied with her work and—we could safely presume—her life. We sleep better every time we choose the harder road that leads to honor. Of course, it’s difficult, because it requires the very best effort we have to offer the world: integrity, love, and courage. Too often we don’t believe we have what it takes to be truly honorable, but we do!