Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct

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Overview

In Choosing Civility, P. M. Forni offers twenty-five rules for connecting effectively with others -- at home, at work, in our daily encounters. In clear, witty, and thoughtful sections, Forni covers topics that include: Think Twice Before Asking Favors; Refrain from Idle Complaints; Don't Shift Responsibility and Blame; Accept and Give Praise; Give Constructive Criticism; Respect Others' Opinions; Care for Your Guests Finally, Forni provides examples of how to put each rule into practice and so make life -- and ...
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Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct

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Overview

In Choosing Civility, P. M. Forni offers twenty-five rules for connecting effectively with others -- at home, at work, in our daily encounters. In clear, witty, and thoughtful sections, Forni covers topics that include: Think Twice Before Asking Favors; Refrain from Idle Complaints; Don't Shift Responsibility and Blame; Accept and Give Praise; Give Constructive Criticism; Respect Others' Opinions; Care for Your Guests Finally, Forni provides examples of how to put each rule into practice and so make life -- and the lives of others -- more enjoyable, companionable, and rewarding.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A professor of Italian literature and the cofounder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, P. M. Forni came to the crucial realization one day that he would rather his students be kind human beings than know Dante. The word civility comes from the Latin civitas, the root also for civilization. How we live together in groups and treat each other on a daily basis is ultimately the foundation of our entire civilization. These 25 rules embody truths that we could all stand to be reminded of: Pay Attention; Acknowledge Others; Think the Best...
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312302504
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 125,097
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

DR. P.M. FORNI is an award-winning professor of Italian Literature at Johns Hopkins University. In 2000 he founded The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins and over the years has continued to teach courses on the theory and history of manners. His book Choosing Civility (2002) has sold more than 100,000 copies. Reports on his work have appeared on The New York Times, The Times of London, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Los Angeles Times. He has been a on a number of radio and television shows, including ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Sunday Morning and BBC's Outlook. For years he was a regular on-the-air contributor to the Baltimore NPR affiliate station and the nationally syndicated radio show The Satellite Sisters.

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Table of Contents

Foreword xi
Part 1
Life and Relationships 3
What Is Civility? 7
Respect in Action 13
Happiness and the Mind 15
How Do We Learn to Love? 18
Civility and Self-Expression 21
Nice Guys Finish Last. Or Do They? 25
The Science of Love and Social Support 28
About the Rules 31
Part 2 The Rules
1. Pay Attention 35
2. Acknowledge Others 41
3. Think the Best 44
4. Listen 48
5. Be Inclusive 54
6. Speak Kindly 60
7. Don't Speak Ill 64
8. Accept and Give Praise 69
9. Respect Even a Subtle "No" 74
10. Respect Others' Opinions 77
11. Mind Your Body 81
12. Be Agreeable 87
13. Keep It Down (and Rediscover Silence) 93
14. Respect Other People's Time 97
15. Respect Other People's Space 100
16. Apologize Earnestly 106
17. Assert Yourself 110
18. Avoid Personal Questions 116
19. Care for Your Guests 122
20. Be a Considerate Guest 126
21. Think Twice Before Asking for Favors 131
22. Refrain from Idle Complaints 136
23. Accept and Give Constructive Criticism 141
24. Respect the Environment and Be Gentle to Animals 146
25. Don't Shift Responsibility and Blame 152
Part 3
Culture Shock 161
Striking Through the Form to the Substance 163
I Did It My Way 165
Authority on the Wane 167
The Age of the Self 169
Living Among Strangers 171
The Drive to Achieve 173
Stress 175
How We Play the Game 176
Two Sides of the Coin 179
What to Do 182
Notes 187
Suggestions for Further Reading 195
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First Chapter

Chapter One

Life and Relationships

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.
--Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.
--Paul of Tarsus

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.
--Henry James

Here we are at the end of the century, drifting through a heroless age. We have no leaders we can trust, no visions to invest in, no faith to ride. All we have are our own protean moralities, our countless private codes, which we each shape and reshape according to our own selfish needs. We don't dare to think too far ahead, we can't see too far ahead. Here we are, trapped by whatever season we find ourselves enduring, waiting out the weather, staring at a drought sun, stupefied, helpless--or scrambling like fools to make it home before the rain really comes down and the dry river floods and the hills crash into the valley. Where do we find the courage to do what is right?

I came across this passage by novelist Peter Gadol when everybody was getting ready to celebrate the turn of both the century and the millennium. It was a striking description of a malaise with which, to a greater or a lesser extent, many of us were familiar. Gadol's words resonated with me in particular because of my involvement with the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, a cluster of academic and outreach activities aimed at assessing the relevance of civility and good manners in today's society. While working on the Project, I had been giving thought to the widely perceived decline in the quality of social interaction--the so-called coarsening of America.

Gadol's words on the end of the twentieth century apply to the beginning of the new century as well. Constant uncertainty about our identities and our future seems at times our only certainty. Long-established values appear obsolete, but to agree on what the new ones should be is a daunting task. Quite often we don't know where to look for standards against which to measure our efforts to be good citizens of the world. In fact, the notion of standards itself has been growing more and more problematic.

And yet we still need to be able to say yes to some things and no to others as a matter of principle and with enough conviction. We still need to believe in something that will give us our vital daily dose of meaning and motivation. As we grapple with the complexities of our age, I suggest in this book that we agree on one principle: that a crucial measure of our success in life is the way we treat one another every day of our lives.

Then "good manners" must be inspired by the good heart. There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

When we lessen the burden of living for those around us we are doing well; when we add to the misery of the world we are not. To me, this is a simple, practical philosophy that makes sense and feels right. And since I started speaking in public on these issues several years ago, I have discovered that it makes sense and feels right to people from every walk of life and every part of the world. How are we to carry out the business of living day in and day out in accordance with this premise? I propose that as a society we take a new, close look at that intriguing code of behavior based on respect, restraint, and responsibility that we call civility.

M. Scott Peck chose to open his wise guidebook to smart, decent, and loving living with an utterly plain and clear statement. "Life is difficult" is the founding truth of his work, one he connects to "Life is suffering," the first of the Four Noble Truths taught by Buddha. Of course, countless versions of this truth appear in wisdom literature throughout history. "Life is difficult." I like the simplicity of the utterance. We can all benefit from basic truths stated in direct and simple language. In the hasty confusion of our days, we easily lose sight of basic truths. As we fail to make them part of our everyday thinking, we eventually become unable to recognize them clearly and confront them effectively. And so we stumble through life in a cloud of dust raised by our own misguided steps.

When we manage to make real contact with a basic truth, sometimes we are inspired to act upon it, and thus we may change our lives radically and permanently. Greatness is not just in the truth itself but in what we can do with it. "Once we truly know that life is difficult--once we truly understand and accept it--then life is no longer difficult," says M. Scott Peck. Now, we may be able to reach this wisdom and strength or we may not. All of us, however, can find ways to cope effectively with difficulty.

That life is difficult is the founding truth of any book that offers practical help. Millions of pages would not have been written if life were not difficult and we didn't need help coping with its challenges. The message that we want to hear--that we never tire of hearing--is that although life is difficult, it is not unbearable; that there is something relatively simple that we can do to overcome life's difficulty. We are not passive vessels into which pain, anxiety, and sorrow are poured. In fact, we can become effective managers of our actions and emotions. As such, we can reduce the impact of sorrow and unhappiness upon our lives. Although life entails hardship and suffering, we can do something about it--we can always do something about it. Life may be difficult, but serenity, contentment, well-being, and even happiness are not only possible but also within relatively easy reach.

I am convinced that, to a significant extent, life is what our relationships make it. Every page of this book is imbued with this simple conviction. Good relationships make our lives good; bad relationships make our lives bad. We are usually happy (or unhappy) with others. Although at times we can be happy in spite of others, we are usually happy thanks to them, thanks to the good relationships we have with them. To learn how to be happy we must learn how to live well with others, and civility is a key to that. Through civility we develop thoughtfulness, foster effective self-expression and communication, and widen the range of our benign responses. Civility allows us to connect successfully with others. While there is no substitute for healthy self-esteem, we also need to transcend our Selves. Finding a comfortable balance between the two is where everyday wellness and happiness begin, and what civility is all about. Contents

Foreword xi

Part One

Life and Relationships 3
What Is Civility? 7
Respect in Action 13
Happiness and the Mind 15
How Do We Learn to Love? 18
Civility and Self-Expression 21
Nice Guys Finish Last. Or Do They? 25
The Science of Love and Social Support 28
About the Rules 31

Part Two

The Rules
1. Pay Attention 35
2. Acknowledge Others 41
3. Think the Best 44
4. Listen 48
5. Be Inclusive 54
6. Speak Kindly 60
7. Don't Speak Ill 64
8. Accept and Give Praise 69
9. Respect Even a Subtle "No" 74
10. Respect Others' Opinions 77
11. Mind Your Body 81
12. Be Agreeable 87
13. Keep It Down (and Rediscover Silence) 93
14. Respect Other People's Time 97
15. Respect Other People's Space 100
16. Apologize Earnestly and Thoughtfully 106
17. Assert Yourself 110
18. Avoid Personal Questions 116
19. Care for Your Guests 122
20. Be a Considerate Guest 126
21. Think Twice Before Asking for Favors 131
22. Refrain from Idle Complaints 136
23. Give Constructive Criticism 141
24. Respect the Environment and Be Gentle to Animals 146
25. Don't Shift Responsibility and Blame 152

Part Three

Culture Shock 161
Striking Through the Form to the Substance 163
I Did It My Way 165
Authority on the Wane 167
The Age of the Self 169
Living Among Strangers 171
The Drive to Achieve 173
Stress 175
How We Play the Game 176
Two Sides of the Coin 179
What to Do 182

Notes 187

Suggestions for Further Reading 195

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 27, 2009

    A must have for the professional and anyone who interacts with individuals in any fashion.

    Choosing Civility is a must-read, must-have for life. I adopted this book as a text in a series of University courses I teach that focus on the understanding and development of the self in the fall semester and the understanding of others in the spring semester. It is one of the most valuable tools to help examine how we should treat one another and why we do what we choose to do in life. It addresses the simple daily interactions that are a part of one's world, but seem to be missing today. This book helps us to consider how we should attend to our interpersonal and intrapersonal lives by helping us to visualize and identify the traits we want to strive to incorporate into our lives right now. It can be seen as a rule book for living in a world of people. I highly recommend it to help bring self-awareness and to help us make better CHOICES about just who we want to be and to live more conscious lives.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2012

    Choosing Civility: The Twenty Five Rules for Considerate Conduct

    Choosing Civility: The Twenty Five Rules for Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni, was in my opinion, a well written and informative public press novel suited for any personalities liking. Forni, the creator of the civility project at John Hopkins University, has divulged tremendous research and effort into the learning and processing of incivility throughout society. He had originally obtained his undergraduate degree from a University in his native Italy. He finished up his education by earning his doctorate from UCLA in Roman Literature. Do not let that fool you into thinking he may not have been credible to instruct others on how to act civilly. The book is aimed at the general public and I believe it does an incredible job at achieving that goal. It is not written to an academic only type standard; rather it is tailored to anyone capable of understanding around a high school level writing style.
    By first glancing at the title, one may be lead to believe this book is centered on a generic list of rules instructing you how to act. This is not at all the case. This book was written with humorous real life scenarios that you can or have seen yourself in. He used vivid imagery to gain your recognition of incivility, and then pointed out to you how you should be acting instead. There was multiple times where I had laughed out loud while reading. The comedic tone to his writing, along with his real life situations had not only made the read enjoyable and beneficial, but fast as well.
    I would highly recommend this book to anyone one looking for a few great lessons on incivility, a quick and insightful read, or just a plain old enjoyable form of literature.

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  • Posted April 21, 2011

    Simple & Easy

    With the book "Choosing Civility" by P.M. Forni you're going to need a highlighter for this one. I marked up my whole book. It's filled with good advice. Yes it's a small little book but there is so much to learn from. Some examples of nice simple rules for being civil," Pay Attention," "Speak kindly," "Be a Considerate Guest," and so on. Forni gives good meaning to his twenty-five rules in short descriptions. It's an easy book to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2009

    Choosing Civility

    So necessary in the mean world we live in! It helps us choose civility!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2008

    Being an outstanding human being is complex

    This is a wonderful book. A good gift for graduates, someone starting a new job, or for any occasion. Self improvement enthusiasts should have this book in their collection. Some of the things the author talks about are both simple and profound. For example, one of the rules is Be Inclusive. The author encourages you to reevaluate your dislikes, try speaking and listening to somebody you do not like, and to show an interest in cultures besides your own. You will find out that being an outstanding human being is complex. The publisher describes this book as magical. I agree.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2002

    Good Manners are Productive

    Various levels of inconsiderate behavior seem to have become daily habits in our goal-oriented society. Whether it's malicious office gossip or road rage, such incivility essentially contributes to decreased personal and professional satisfaction. But in today's fast-paced world, it seems a constant challenge to maintain poise and cordiality in the face of everyday difficulties. With the author's preceding claim that he is a 'flawed messenger bearing a good message', P.M. Forni offers a combination of common sense and ethics which culminate in a rediscovery of strategies to become more sensitive and considerate towards eachother. His thoughtful handbook Choosing Civility is more than a simple manners guide or book of etiquette rules, but an unearthing of the inherent values that somehow got trampled upon in our modern day race towards success. This enjoyable and insightful book is worth anyone's time who values their physiological health, interpersonal relationships, job satisfaction, or company's bottom line.

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