Three Pillars (1): Civilty

Want to know more about the three pillars of #PledgeToListen? In this series of articles by the creator of Free Trip to Egypt, Tarek Mounib, we break down the fundamental ideas behind the pledge, and how we think it can best be fulfilled. First up, Tarek outlines the core tenets of Civility: a value that is easy to espouse, but that many of us struggle to live up to in our own interactions.

»Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.«

George Washington

Civility — what exactly is it, and how important is it in the context of our daily lives? Civility is about participating in human interactions based on respectful, authentic, responsible, ethical, compassionate, and considerate forms of speech and behaviors. This includes a free sharing of viewpoints and ideas: agreeing, questioning, and disagreeing in a way that affirms and respects all participants.

Each of us is a steward of civility. It is we who keep civility present in the conversations we have with others, in our encounters with all those who cross our path.

Deborah King, an internationally recognized civility expert and founder of Final Touch, says:

»Civility knows no boundaries. It speaks every language, crosses every time zone, thrives in every culture, connects with every generation, is available to every person, and improves every situation.«

Like the "butterfly effect", our words and actions extend out into the larger world, positively or negatively impacting on all that they touch.

Although the results of research, surveys and polls indicate that society as a whole believes that we have reached unprecedented levels of incivility — especially in online spaces — it’s clear that civility can still thrive when we choose to share words, stories, photos and posts that uplift and encourage our local and world family to do the same.

As President Barack Obama reminded us when speaking at the memorial service after the tragic Tucson, Arizona shootings:

»It’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds .... We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.«

When it comes to ethical speech and action, civility is about choosing to be mindfully respectful about how our communication and behaviors affect others regarding themselves, their culture, their politics, and their religion. It’s about a shared level of empathy with our global brothers and sisters that can build bridges of respect, compassion, and a common ground of unity.

Want to consider ways in which you can help promote civility? Self-reflection is the best place to start. With that in mind, here are a list of questions to consider for those seeking to fulfil the pledge:

  • How strongly does my societal and cultural conditioning impact my points of view?
  • Am I open to hearing the opinions and beliefs of others?
  • Do I think before I speak, considering the effect it will have upon others?
  • Am I as willing to listen as I am to speak?
  • When disagreeing with someone, am I respectful? If not, do I apologize?
  • Do I catch myself when I’m in over-reactivity and reverse my course?
  • Do I treat people of cultures different than my own with dignity and respect?
  • Does my personal social circle include a diversity of individuals?
  • Do I use the internet and social media conscientiously, ethically?
  • When watching the news, do I select only networks that support my political views, or do I also check in on networks with opposite points of view?