Civility is more than being polite or avoiding conflict to simply get along. Civility doesn’t mean ignoring conflict, diversity, or difference of opinion. Rather, civility is the ‘how’ of citizenship. Civility is how we come together to discuss, debate, and creatively respond to our shared challenges. Civility is character in action. Civility is treating others with respect and care. The words we use matter. Civility is also the ability to listen intently to those who may not share your perspective. Civility in action requires us not only to be fair-minded but to show the courage to work with others toward the common good, despite our differences.
We write to remind ourselves that “we must be the change we wish to see in the world,” starting in our own families and communities.
The first step toward real change is the courage to ask yourself hard questions. For example, when it comes to practicing civility, will you consistently:
1. Build relationships with people who think differently than you.
2. Set ground rules for respectful debate and productive discussion.
3. Look for common ground and shared goals despite differences.
4. Attack the problem, not the person, listening always to understand.
5. Hold one another accountable for civic engagement? We will inevitably fall short of our desire to be more civil. When we fail, we must be ready to apologize and recommit.