52 Books - Book 21
At first glance, the word civility feels a bit old fashioned or even judgmental. A list of rules for conduct feels to me like an oppressive approach to working with others.
Depending on one’s personality or how our brain is wired, we might appreciate rules like “Care for your guests” or “Be a considerate guest.” While I agree with the rules, I don’t really like imposing rules on others. Perhaps because I don’t like the feeling of being corrected or judged by others who use rules as dogma rather than guidelines to follow as a foundation for leading others?
Given my original bias, the book, Choosing Civilly: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni, would not be a book I’d select to read. However, life has its way of sending lessons to us even when we are not paying attention. In taking a new job, I was guided to read the book. I discovered little buried treasures of wisdom tucked into its pages. To set the stage, the author wrote:
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, and thanks to the good relationships we have with them. This makes sense. The bottom line of what Forni says: To learn to be happy we must learn how to live well with others and civility is the key to that.
Forni got my attention because what he wrote resonated with the reason I started this blog. I wanted a way to remind myself and share with others, that leadership happens in small conversations. These little conversations are the foundation of good relationships.
According to Forni, civility is complex, good, and belongs in the realm of ethics. He started his career as a professor of Italian fiction and poetry and one day had an epiphany. He realized he wanted to teach his students to be kind human beings more than he wanted them to know about a particular poet. He took his role as a teacher seriously and started offering lectures and workshops on civility.
Here he speaks about using our creative mind in a way that we don’t typically consider:
To be fully human we must be able to imagine others’ hurt and relate to it to the hurt we would experience if we were in their place. Consideration is imagination on a moral track.
With this introduction, I took a deeper look at the 25 rules of conduct listed in the book. I asked myself if I am willing to learn and model these rules? I ask that because, true leadership comes when we assume responsibility for the change we envision. Yes, I want a world in which people grow and deepen their ability to relate to others because I do believe that is the key to happiness.
Tweet me your perspective of the concept of civility. Does it need to be cultivated through talent development and integrated into education?
Every week during 2014 I look forward to sharing books that I am reading. The lens of the leadership process will be the filter for which I recommend books. Books are powerful vehicles for providing us with inspiration and new ideas.