What is civility?

Civility: Courteous acts that contribute to smoothness and ease in dealings and social relationships, Civil: Characterized by good manners,

Civic: concerning or affecting the community or the people.

- Roget’s II, The New Thesaurus, 1988 Houghton Mifflin Company.

Civility: according to the Oxford dictionary of current English is politeness or act of politeness, Civil: is polite, obliging, not rude

Whenever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness – Lucius A. Seneca

Civility in higher education:

There are a lot of different perspectives about what is and is not included in the discussion of civility. Most dictionary definitions describe it as common courtesy among society members, tolerance, and unity. Those that watch for the lack of civility believe that incivility is increasing. Incivility in these cases has meant accepted cynicism, rudeness, and speech or action that is disrespectful or rude.

Forni (2002) in his book “Choosing Civility, The Twenty Five Rules of Considerate Conducts stated that civility is complex, good, has to do with courtesy, politeness, and good manners. He listed the following key civility-related notions. These notions speaks for itself:

Respect for other, care, consideration, courtesy, golden rule (or platinum rule), respect other’s feelings, niceness, politeness, respect of other’s opinion, maturity, kindness, manners, being accommodating, fairness, decency, self-control, concern, justice, tolerance, e, etiquette, tact’ equality, sincerity, morality, honesty, awareness, trustworthiness, friendship, table manners, moderation, listening, compassion, being agreeable, going out of one’s way, friendliness, lending a hand, propriety, abiding by rules, good citizenship, peace.

Quotes about Civility:

Life is Relationship

  • A kind word is like charity - Muslim proverb
  • Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude – Paul of Tarsus
  • Civility is key in learning how to live well with others – P. M. Forni
  • If you would be loved, love and be lovable - Benjamin Franklin
  • A kind word is like a spring day – Russian proverb
  • There is no joy except in human relationship – Antoine de Saint- Exupery
  • Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle – Chinese proverb
  • We have a choice about how we behave, and that means we have the choice to opt for civility and grace – Dwight Currie
  • The very essence of politeness seems to be to take care that by our words and actions we make other people pleased with us as well as with themselves – Jean De La Bruyere
  • Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength – Eric Hoffer
  • Social ties are the cheapest medicine we have – Shelley E. Taylor
  • Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present – George Washington
  • Behave as if you where in heaven, where there are no 3 rd class carriages, and one soul is as good as other – George Bernard Shaw
  • I can live for two months on a good compliment – Mark Twain
  • The idea is to attract, not to repel – Peggy and Peter Post
  • My right to swing my fist ends at your nose. My right to make noise ought to end at your ear – Les Blomberg
  • Let us be silent- so we may hear the whisper of the gods – Ralp W. Emerson
  • Dost Thou love life? The do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of – Benjamin Franklin
  • What is pleasanter other than the tie of host and guest – Aeschylus
  • Our critics are the unpaid guardians for our soul – Corrie ten Boom
  • The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer (treatment of animals..) – Jeremey Bentham
  • 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 W. Emerson
  • 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
  • A human moments occur any time two or more people are together, paying attention to one another – Edward M. Hallowell
  • We do no inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children – Native American saying

Questions about Civility:

How would you demonstrate civility in the classroom?

What are some examples of civility that you have witnessed and appreciated?

What do you think the impact of civility on individuals and on the society?

How do you think different cultures look at Civility?

How would you react when you witness an uncivil act?


Forni, P.M., October 2003, “Choosing Civility, The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York

Newman-Gonchar, Becky, (2001), Current Trend in Higher Education presentation, “Civility in Higher Education”.

Soukhanov, Anne H., et al, 1988, Roget’s II, The New Thesaurus, Houghton Mifflin Company.

Thompson, Della, 1996, Oxford dictionary of current English, second edition, Oxford University Press, Walton Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP