The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude


Many of us find ourselves confronted with rudeness every day and dont know how to respond. P.M. Forni, the author of the acclaimed "Choosing Civility," has the answer. In "The Civility Solution," he provides more than one hundred different situations, and shows us how to break the rudeness cycle. How would you respond to the following? ...A salesperson ignores your requests ...A fellow driver gives you the infamous "finger" ...Your childs playmate misbehaves ...Your boss publicly reprimands you P. M. Forni has ...

See more details below
Paperback (First Edition)
$11.58 price
(Save 10%)$12.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (29) from $1.99   
  • New (8) from $6.77   
  • Used (21) from $1.99   
The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook - First Edition)
$9.26 price


Many of us find ourselves confronted with rudeness every day and dont know how to respond. P.M. Forni, the author of the acclaimed "Choosing Civility," has the answer. In "The Civility Solution," he provides more than one hundred different situations, and shows us how to break the rudeness cycle. How would you respond to the following? ...A salesperson ignores your requests ...A fellow driver gives you the infamous "finger" ...Your childs playmate misbehaves ...Your boss publicly reprimands you P. M. Forni has solutions for all of these and many more. In yet another simple and practical handbook, P. M. Forni presents logical solutions that reinforce good behavior and make our world a more civil place.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“It is an honor to recommend this fabulous book! P.M. Forni’s thoughtful discussion of the importance of civility in today’s hectic world will surely help readers find viable solutions for dealing with a variety of rude situations.”—Peggy Post, director of the Emily Post Institute and author of Emily Post Etiquette, 17th Edition

“Pier M. Forni will be remembered as one of the greatest generals in our nation's struggle for civility.”—Smithsonian Magazine

Library Journal

According to Forni (Choosing Civility), founder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project (1997-2000), rudeness begets rudeness, and the only way to break the cycle is through assertive and civil behavior. In Part 1 of his latest book, he describes some of the causes of rudeness (e.g., anger, fear, inflated self-worth) and the negative consequences of rude behavior in daily life. He suggests eight rules for a civil life, which include respecting others and paying attention to small things. In Part 2, Forni provides over 70 examples of situations in which rudeness arises and solutions for dealing with them. Readers who have been criticized in public or annoyed by a loud cell phone conversation get realistic help. Highly recommended for all libraries.
—Deborah Bigelow

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312369644
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 542,737
  • Product dimensions: 5.02 (w) x 7.54 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

DR. P.M. FORNI is an award-winning professor of Italian Literature at Johns Hopkins University, where in 2000 he founded The Civility Initiative. He has lectured at NASA, and universities and medical institutions around the country.  He is the author of Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct. His work has been featured in The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the London Times, and he has appeared on NPR and Oprah.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


If anything characterizes the twenty-first century, it’s

our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of

other people.

—James Katz

This is how Marci recalls the one encounter with rudeness that sticks in her mind:

“Needing to run a quick errand before work, I threw on a business suit and ran out the door. Driving north on a wide through street, I climbed a small hill to a stoplight. A man in another car was waiting for me to pass so he could pull out of his subdivision. I did pass and then stopped at the red light a few yards up to make a left turn. The man pulled up alongside me to turn right at the light and leaned out of his window. The nasty expletive exploded from his lips. It was pure spite delivered with shocking bluntness. At least the kids weren’t in the car to hear him. Shaken, I began to tremble—not with anger but with the sting of an unexpected wound.

“Why me? Why such an extreme reaction? Didn’t he see I was just a working mom, driving my minivan to work? I wasn’t ignorant or inconsiderate, selfish or dim-witted, and I certainly was not what he called me! The unfairness of it all hit me. Should I follow this man and at the first opportunity demand an explanation?

Maybe offer an apology? No, better to do my errand and get to work. I began to cry.

“I felt so abused, so punished, so violated, so deeply hurt, and eventually very angry that I could not defend myself. The incident affected me for days afterward. The next time I climbed that hill to the stoplight, I looked around to see what I might have done to cause the outburst. Eventually, after a long time, I realized it was more the man’s problem than mine.”

Marci’s tale is unusual only because she never did find out what caused the stranger’s outburst. Her emotions, however, are quite familiar. All of us have been shocked by people behaving rudely. Rude relatives, bosses, co-workers, “fellow” drivers, and strangers in literally all circumstances of life have made us feel at fault, helpless, and angry. We have bristled at the unfairness of their attacks and at times endured lingering hurt. Clearly a problem in the lives of individuals (with negative effects not only for its victims but also for its perpetrators), rudeness is also a social problem with costs estimated in the billions of dollars.

Rudeness may be everybody’s everyday problem, but millions remain unprepared for their encounters with it. This book aims to help you find exactly what rudeness is and how it works. Most important, you will learn how to defend yourself effectively and civilly from its daily challenges. Being civil is the sterling strategy for rudeness prevention. If you are respectful and considerate, most of the people with whom you come in contact will be motivated to be the same in return. When rudeness can’t be prevented, civility is still your best choice, as the stories that follow show over and over again. Although we cannot hope to ban rudeness from our lives altogether, we can limit both its occurrences and its impact. When we handle it well, we feel good about ourselves and reap other substantial benefits, such as healing wounded relationships. Being prepared is half the solution to any problem. Put this book to work for you, and never let rudeness catch you unprepared again.

Precisely because rudeness is quite common, it is not a

trivial issue. Indeed, in our day-to-day lives it is possibly

responsible for more pain than any other mortal failing.

—Emrys Westacott

Our ability to deal with rudeness is somehow related to

how we handle grief, and the series of steps that we go

through in coping: shock, denial, anger, acceptance,

and finally release. Of course the narrative for a loss

occurs over a protracted period of time, while the rude

encounter’s narrative is far shorter.

—James Bailey

1. On Rudeness

Eight tough weeks into my stint as a reluctant conscript in the Italian Army, I was not looking forward to another ten months in the stark isolation of my remote Alpine outpost. I knew I would miss civilian freedom and the excitement of city life. Newly licensed to drive military trucks, I could see in my future only long and bleary-eyed shifts steering diesel behemoths along treacherous mountain roads. Then, one cold December morning, everything changed. Transfer orders came, like an extravagant early Christmas gift. I was to report to brigade’s headquarters that very evening. My C.O. informed me that I would be in charge of a new military newsletter and act as liaison with the local press. The brigade was headquartered south of the mountains in a lovely town graced by elegant Renaissance buildings, filled with art treasures, and swarming with life. Congenial work awaited me. Relative freedom came with the job. I felt as though I was rejoining civilization, and I was moved by my own good fortune. Still incredulous, I packed my few belongings, put on my travel uniform, and arranged a ride to the train station.

As the train pulled away from the frozen wilderness, my heart soared. The sky had loomed overcast since morning, but as we left the last of the shaded gorges and uncoiled onto the flatland, the afternoon sunshine made its glorious appearance. While the golden light raced us down the rust-colored countryside, I became sharply aware of a rush of happiness inside me. I was simply, perfectly happy. And with that happiness came the determination to always remember how it felt. There was no assurance that I would ever experience it again. I wanted to remember the electrical warmth of the train compartment, the smell of the vinyl upholstery, the preternatural quality of the light, the surge inside.

Moments like this make life worth living. They are rare and usually come out of the blue. We are visited by them just as the ancients were visited by their gods. This does not mean, however, that in the realm of the ordinary there is no room for happiness. It may be a happiness of a different kind, but it too makes our days worth living. When you are asked if you had a good day, what allows you to answer that you did? Not that you experienced rapturous joy but rather that a few defining—albeit mundane—good things happened to you. You may think, for instance:

“I really got a lot done at work today. The office finally came together as a team, without the usual power games and personality clashes. The Big Boss even acknowledged that my marketing plan was very smart. Is a promotion next? Salad with Jennifer at lunch was a treat. We must do that more often. She took it in stride that I had to remain at work late again tonight and said she would be glad to pick up the children at school. I will make it up to her. I am so lucky to have her in my life. The drive home was no struggle, for a change. No tailgating, no angry honking, no wild lane hopping. People were in a wonderful merge-and-let-merge mood. No stress there; in fact, some friendly waving. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was always like that?”

You may not have experienced a single “brilliant flash of enjoyment” (to use John Stuart Mill’s expression), but you are happy with what you did, happy with your day. You feel good about yourself and about the world. This ordinary happiness, this feeling of contentment can become your faithful companion. It’s the state of mind you refer to when you say that you are happy with your life. What you mean is that you are gratified by a number of good things that are part of your daily experience. How is life treating you? That depends to a large extent on how others are treating you and how you are treating them. In the preceding example, the events forming the good day all involved people relating positively to one another.

Unfortunately, as a society we seem to be failing the respect-and-consideration test. Opinion surveys have been reporting for years that Americans are quite concerned about the incivility they encounter every day. They feel they have been witnessing a steady decline of standards in their lifetimes and see no realistic indication that a trend reversal is around the corner. A detailed picture of incivility in the U.S. today will emerge from the following pages and chapters. Suffice it to say, for now, that the threat of incivility to the quality of our lives is not a trivial one. Common sense suggests that we should learn to cope as best we can with the rudeness that will certainly keep coming our way. To do that we need to acquire clear notions of what rudeness is, what it does, and what causes it.


As a Courtesy to the

Next Passenger May

We Suggest You Use

Your Towel to Wipe

Off The Washbasin

Have you ever noticed this kind of sign in an airplane restroom? I find it truly extraordinary. It is the voice of society reminding us that we are expected to care for one another. We are expected, mind you, not required. The sign makes no reference to a law or even a regulation. The key words are “as a courtesy” and “we suggest”—nothing more than a gentle prodding. But why should we clean out a basin that a perfect stranger will use next? Why spend time and energy on something that does not benefit us directly? Because it is the right thing to do. Being courteous to the next passenger is its own reward, the sole incentive. A remarkable notion!

Several decades ago, Sir John Fletcher Moulton, a distinguished British judge, spoke of a sphere of human action he called Obedience to the Unenforceable. Actions in this realm are neither prescribed by law nor chosen in absolute freedom. Rather, they are influenced by our sense of what is the proper, responsible, and decent thing to do. They fall under an unofficial code of duty to goodness. If we fail to yield our subway seat to a frail and aging fellow passenger, the law will not come after us. And yet, something makes us forgo our comfort. We are free to remain seated, yet we are not completely free. Civility compels us—at least some of us—to stand.

When we obey the Unenforceable and clean up after ourselves in an airplane restroom, in addition to being courteous to the next passenger, we keep alive an unwritten pact that benefits us as well. It is a pact with no one in particular and with persons of civil disposition in general, based on the principle of reciprocal altruism. If each passenger is willing to do his or her part, the basin will always be clean for everybody. It is an efficient and even enlightened system in which self-interest and altruism harmoniously converge. But it is also a vulnerable one, and its downfall is rudeness, one definition of which is “taking without giving.” The rude disregard the Unenforceable. They enjoy the clean basin but neglect to clean it in turn. They flout the rules of civility while counting on others to follow them.


I strove to keep in mind that by attacking my selfesteem,

he was attempting to gain control over me.

—Lawrence Sanders

When we are polite, we confer regard. The original meaning of to regard is “to look,” “to notice,” and “to keep in view.” To disregard, then, is to look elsewhere, to withdraw attention—and, with it, respect and consideration. Rudeness is disregard. It diminishes and demeans. By treating others curtly, we put them in their place, which is a way of controlling them and thwarting their attempts at controlling us. Through rudeness we show off, dominate, intimidate, coerce, threaten, humiliate, dissuade, and dismiss. Rudeness is control through invalidation. Acts of rudeness can ruin our days and sometimes remain etched in our memory for years. They come in many varieties, but they have one thing in common: They bruise and wound. This is the reason rudeness warrants the investment of time and energy necessary to understand it and learn effective ways of dealing with it.

Excerpted from The Civility Solution by P. M. Forni.

Copyright © 2008 by P. M. Forni.

Published in 2008 by St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Wisdom and Skills

1 On Rudeness 3

2 Preventing Rudeness: Eight Rules for a Civil Life 28

3 Accepting Real-Life Rudeness 52

4 How to Respond to Rudeness 67

Pt. 2 Situations and Solutions

5 The Near and Not So Dear: Spouses, Family, and Friends 87

6 The Neighbors - Noisy, Nosy, and Nice 103

7 Workplace Woes 112

8 On the Road, in the Air, and Aboard the Train 126

9 The World of Service 139

10 Digital Communication 149

Closing Thoughts 159

Notes 161

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2008

    A reviewer

    PM Forni has done it again! He has written another compact volume that is quite smart while also being quite simple, and which is exceedingly erudite while also being quite accessible. Most of all, The Civility Solution is eminently and immediately useful. Building on his prior best-selling success in Choosing Civility, Forni has created the perfect companion volume which answers the reciprocal question, 'OK, now that we think we know how to be more civil, what do we do when people continue to be rude to us?' It may be simple, but it is not always easy, because common sense is seldom common practice. Even though I was able to use several of Forni's practical suggestions on the train home from NYC the other day, in its consideration of what rudeness is and how to respond to it, The Civility Solution underscores that the real solutions lie in ourselves and our own efforts to be good and decent and civil people. As a psychotherapist, I am able to suggest PM Forni's books as primers in how to become a better person and demonstrate one's preferred vision of oneself, one's character, and of one's future, at home, at work, and in the marketplace, as well as to learn ways to deal with others who behave less than admirably.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)