Mastering Civility


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Mastering Civility

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02.27.17

Mastering Civility

Mastering Civility

Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.

— M. W. Montagu

CIVILITY has a way of winning people over and garnering influence.

Civility isn’t just the absence of incivility. In Mastering Civility, Christine Porath explains that “Civility in the fullest sense requires something more: positive gestures of respect, dignity, courtesy, or kindness that lift people up.”

Incivility impacts our health and performance. It depletes our “immune system, causing cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and ulcers.” It also robs us of our “cognitive resources, hijacks our performance and creativity, and sidelines us from our work. Even if we want to perform at our best, we can’t, because we’re bothered and preoccupied by the rudeness.”

Incivility is contagious. “When you’re exposed to hostility or aggression, you behave differently. Incivility sneaks into your subconscious. It’s easy to see how plagues of incivility can take shape and spread.” But you don’t have to succumb to incivility. “When you follow a rude experience with a polite one, the polite one ‘overwrites’ the rude one, loosening the hold it has on your mind.”

Civility starts with a few basic behaviors and it grows from there. Simple things like saying please and thank you make a difference in how we are perceived by others and the influence we have on them. “Most of us are in a hurry to prove our competence, but warmth contributes significantly more to others’ evaluations. Warmth is the pathway to influence.”

Other basic behaviors include acknowledging people and listening. They signal caring, commitment and connection. Show respect for others by sharing resources, the limelight, and positive feedback. “The highest performers offer more positive feedback with their peers; in fact, high-performing teams share six times more positive feedback than average teams. Meanwhile, low-performing teams share twice as much negative feedback than average teams.”

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