The Institute’s definition of civility was featured in Columbus, Georgia’s Ledger-Enquirer, and in the Houston Chronicle, at the end of November. But it looks like we missed one: the Institute also appeared in a column titled ‘Civility Begins with Us’ in the Smoky Mountain News — a weekly newspaper out of Waynesville, North Carolina.
The November 20 column, written by retired seminary professor Doug Wingeier, offers five approaches to dealing with disagreement and conflict — withdrawing, smoothing, compromising, forcing, and negotiating. And it makes the argument that while each has its place, and while each can be approached with civility and respect, only in negotiating — and to a lesser extent in compromising — is it possible to gain a satisfying, productive result.
In coming to this conclusion, Wingeier writes about the Institute button that he wears on his jacket — Civility is Catching: Pass It On! — and he quotes the Institute’s core definition of civility, and part of the extended definition, too. Civility, he writes, is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process. And it is:
Disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, staying present with those with whom we disagree, and negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard and nobody is ignored. And civility begins with us.
We contacted Doug Wingeier to ask why he chose the Institute’s definition, and he told us that when he Googled civility, ours was the definition that was right on target for the column, and for civic discourse in general. He continued:
I believe that all human beings, as children of God — whether I agree with them or not — are persons of infinite worth and deserve respect as such. Verbal abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse, demeans both object and speaker, undermines community, and subverts one’s objective of making a point or accomplishing a goal.
And he told us that he thought the Institute’s project was a key part in building a truly democratic society.
We couldn’t agree more.
And if you do too — if you believe in the efficacy of civil speech and civil action to solve problems, and in the importance of treating one’s neighbors with respect, friends and adversaries alike — add your voice to ours. Click here to join the Institute for Civility in Government today. Or here to make a donation.