Taming the Tongue & Other Wild Animals: An Evening of Civility

Have you ever been introduced by John? There is almost nothing he leaves to respond to. He does it so well. I thought I'd break out into tears there for a moment. But you spared us, John. In fact, I have the feeling that if this whole event were ten minutes in length--the whole thing, he would still say everything he said; that's five for John, five for me. Well, maybe I don't have that quite right; I'm quick to admit that. Those of us who profess to profess often don't get it quite right.

And neither, by the way, did the three women at the kissing booths at the county fair not so long ago. I want to tell you about that kissing booth thing. There were three of them who established booths right beside each other. One was a time-management expert. She was heard telling her customers as they came in--and the line was very short--"Hurry up! Hurry up! We've gotta get this done quickly!" The second one, right next to the time-management expert, was a hair stylist. She was heard telling her customers--and her line was very short--"Careful! Don't mess up my hair!" And the third was a teacher. Her line extended a long ways. She was heard telling her customers, "You know, you didn't get that quite right. Let's try that over again."

I'm compelled to begin with still other things that are relevant to this whole thing. I'll get to my musings and my windows shortly. But before that, several things. One: A compliment to this crowd, and you can take it seriously if you like. There are so many right things going on here by so many people. There are so many sharp people doing such incredibly good work on this campus, so much good staffing and services, so much enviably good teaching, so much good administering by some very able people. Furthermore, we are a vigorous and resilient group. You know that! We've got to be in order to hang onto this part of the desert! In fact, observers of us, including, and especially, our alums are very clear about our strengths. They are very high in their praise of us, and occasionally their blame. We're big enough to take both.

I want to tell you what one person said. She's a recent grad and finds herself in a secondary school in a little town in North Carolina. Here it goes: "I am finding that the experience and the training and the fellowship I received at Walla Walla have served me well." She goes on to say, "In Heaven, many of the special people at the College will realize all the lives you have touched."

Tonight gives us the perfect chance to take a look at ourselves under a couple of disclaimers. One: I'll offer some candor about our incivilities and about our civilities. And that will include me! Two: My comments carry no agenda. And the third one: As I peruse my burgeoning interest in civility tonight, I've noticed this is great elbow rhetoric. Are you with me, anybody? It's this stuff: "Oh, June ought to be here." "Oh, too bad Methuselah is not hearing this. Sorry he's not here tonight." So this is great elbow rhetoric. But tonight I talk to just two people. One is you, and the other person to whom I speak is me. Let's just have an extended monologue, you and I. And as long as you are willing to permit that, that would be its own gracious act of civility.

First, some musings about our soft spots, and then some windows on our civilities. And you're going to like what you are going to hear, during some of this, at least, but perhaps not all of it. Scott Peck in his work, "A World Waiting to Be Born," defined incivilities as "often unintended behavior from people who literally may not know what they are doing." And I add to that, "and have no sense how it hurts," that's my part. Peck and I need to write a book soon, because his definition is not complete.

I begin with a story. I'll get to the musings in just a moment. As an immature college kid in the flatlands of this country, a number of us glibly used the expression--it was the college expression of the day--"not bad for a harelip." I shall rue the day when I used that one too many times.

Frank was a community kid. I knew him fairly well. I worked at the campus store. Frank rolled in one morning, and with his severe cleft lip and a severe cleft palate and excessive nasality he said, "How are you?" in a way that I can't even mimic. And I said (are you with me?), "Not bad for a harelip." At that millisecond I felt as though a vice grip wrench had been clutched onto my heart and was turning around and around in an ever-tightening grip. I was stunned! Lest anyone think tonight that "Taming the Tongue and Other Wild Animals" is for somebody else, it isn't so. I'm with you. And you may be with me. Would you like a sequel?
Incidentally, Kathleen Jamison, a prominent figure in communication circles, said just a few weeks ago, "When we engage in relationships, which we inevitably do, the cost of incivility can be very high."

And the sequel. How do you think it turned out? Up to that point in my very irreverent two decades, I never told anybody I was sorry for anything, not once. I had a lot of occasions to do it, but I never took them. So with more courage than I had ever mustered in my irreverent two decades, I sought out Frank before the week was over.

"Frank! It is I ! You probably know why I am connecting with you right now."

And Frank said, "I have a pretty good idea." Those were his words.

And then with more courage than I had ever mustered in my immature twenty years, I asked for forgiveness. And Frank forgave me.

I'm going to take an aside right here. I know nothing about forgiveness except a few things. I have never read or written a dissertation or a thesis on forgiveness, but here is my take on it now. There is something so right about forgiveness because it releases me. It releases me to freedom again. It releases me to wholeness again. It releases me to start liking and loving you all over again. Is that your take on forgiveness?
So there's a definition. "Incivilities are often unintended behaviors by people who literally may not know what they are doing, and have no sense how it's going to hurt."

Musing One. I've come to wonder lately if some of our incivilities are the result of one-issue thinking. Example: I've found myself voting in national or local elections for a candidate based on one thing. And I'll bet you've been in that trap yourself. A single issue--I may have learned that from my mother. I've blamed her for a lot of stuff, but I've quit that now. She was divorced at my age 3. She had all kinds of kids. I was the last one. I think by now I know the cause of the divorce.

So she never voted for a divorcee. She never voted for anybody who drank, never mind the rest of the platform. Is that where I got it? Not very likely.

So what's this have to do with civility? Before I answer that, I'm wondering about our congressional representative to Washington. He's the man who ran a couple of years ago against Tom Foley. And didn't our friend promise to stay in the House no more than four years? It was called the "term limits" thing. And now our friend has decided to do something else! He's flat out turning back on the promises, as near as I can tell. If George Nethercutt were here tonight I would say the same thing. I wonder if you're feeling the same way? The guy is turning coat on us. I'm not happy that he is bailing out on his promise, his one-issue promise, "I will stay four years."

Now let's come closer. How many people break ties with churches--not just ours--because they don't do it right on one issue. We haven't done it right over gay issues, gay issues only. We haven't done it right over women's issues, and women's issues only. We haven't done it right over being friendly, and friendly only. And we haven't done it right over financial policies, and financial policies only. These turn out to be what we could call prima facie cases. On the face of it, it's a compelling argument, in this case, to disassociate.

Now, whether or not these illustrations are apt for you, the point is the bigger thing. It comes from something Robert Coles said in his book, "The Mind States." Let me try it. "When the self becomes our transcend-ence," and I freeze right there. "When the self becomes our transcend-ence, politics becomes a matter of impulses, whims, fancy, and exuberant indulgence." I think that overstates it a bit. But then he says, "One-issue politics is an analog of doing one's own thing." And if he's right about this, then maybe the analog of doing one's own thing may well be one-issue religion, one-issue social causes, one-issue health causes, etc.

What's that to do with civility anyway? "It means losing a chance to have one's own emotional, wordy say, giving up impulses," says Coles. For what? "For the sake of procedure, order, restraint, for the sake,"--notice this line--"of a thankful absence from the other person's torrent of emotional impulses." Neil Postman asserts that "civility is a necessary part of society." Who would argue with that? "And civility sometimes requires that we keep our feelings to ourselves." Not a bad idea! (It's nice to tell the truth, but one doesn't always have to be telling it!) Anna Freud makes a very similar observation. "Nothing can be more fearful and disintegrating than being unprotected against the pressures of our own drives." I had never thought of it before, till Anna Freud came along.

So one-issue thinking may well help explain some of our mostly unintended incivilities. If we must admit it we have to place the blame right at the feet, says Coles and Freud, of ourselves, the transcendent self. I don't find that a bit comforting, not a bit. It's not comforting because it doesn't fit my self-concept neatly at all, and, it doesn't fit my concept of almost all of you! Neither does it fit neatly with my spiritual moorings, or even with my wishes to be more open and more fair-minded with you--civil!, if you please. That's Musing One.

Musing Two. I'm not very good at valuing differences, I've come finally to decide. I'm not very good at valuing differences between us. If I see my world as it is, why should I want to value departures or differences from that, especially in you? And, of course, I do see the world pretty much as it is. Well, I used to say that, as recently as a few weeks ago. My paradigm is that I'm objective; I see the larger picture; many of you do not; but I do! I have super vision! That's why they asked me to teach, and direct, and advise, and supervise! Why don't others see and behave as I do?

When I started ruminating about this just a few months ago, (when I glibly put a title to what we want to say tonight and then discovered I didn't have much to say about it), I discovered a sentence from St. Theresa of Lisieux. It says: "One of the most difficult things about being a spiritual director" - a supervisor - "is to encourage people along a path you would not choose for yourself." What do you think of that? I think I want out of my little minuscule paradigm, and I think I'd like permission to savor some of yours. Hear what Kahlil Gibram says: "But let there be space in your togetherness. And let the winds of heaven dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Rather let it be a moving sea between the shores of your soul. Fill each other's cup, but drink not from the same cup. Give another of your bread, but eat not of the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone, though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts but not into each other's keeping, for only the hand of life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together. For the pillars of the temple stand apart. And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow." That's Musing Two.

Musing Three. What about intentional incivilities? I refer to an ad in just a moment. It appeared in USA Today about ten years ago. Pictured in the ad is a business guy. Here's what the caption said: "I'm 30,000 feet over Nebraska, and the guy next to me sounds like a prospect. I figure I'll buy him a drink, but first I'll excuse myself and go to the phone. I'll call Dunn & Bradstreet for his company's credit rating. Three minutes later I'm back in my seat buying a beer for my new, best friend." Really! Now this is only a little subtle. The point: The new, best friend qualifies as the new, best friend only because there is something in it for the salesman, isn't there? It's a form, a fairly common form, of manipulation. Some of the stuff of business, profit and non-profit, is intentional incivility.

I once had occasion to consult a dentist, one I'd never gone to before. This was an emergency. He sat me down; he checked me thoroughly. Then he interviewed me. Who was I? What did I do for income? (I was a college student so I did a lot for outgo.) Then he said, "Where do you live in this big city?"
I regret telling him. "Oh," I said, "We live on Sheridan Boulevard."


Now Sheridan Boulevard is the address of many fine homes. We happened not to own one of them, but many of them are very fine homes. He retreated to his office. He came back a few minutes later and handed me his recommendation for thousands of dollars worth of dental work, most of it unwarranted, based on other dental exams I had had not too long before. How come? Well, it's pretty clear. I lived among the well-to-do, and though he had no sense I wasn't one of them; he determined I needed the work because I had the money and he wanted the money. It was a rank form of incivility, maybe it was intentional incivility--behavior from one who knew what he was doing, but had no sense how it hurt. He stayed in practice another six months. Then he was gone.

I muse further. Number Four. Does incivility take any softer form? It does. It comes in the form of what I call blockading. Two stories both by Scott Peck. Peck had been counselling with a couple. Connie very much liked opera, but Ron, her husband, didn't. Yet he never told her. In fact, he found lots of work to do on opera nights. On nights when he did go, he grumbled and was given to angry fits, but he never told her. So they came to Peck. He began to open the door, and found out that Ron just simply didn't tell her. He blockaded on her, a form of unintentional incivility.

The second story: Peck and a counsellee came out of church together one morning in a downpour. Susan had an umbrella, he did not. Her car was right there, his was yards and yards away. So of course she did the reasonable thing; you can just hear her. "Here, take my umbrella." He quite simply said, "Oh that's all right. I won't need it," which, of course, was an outright lie. He did need it!

After driving miles home wet, Peck began to realize the significance of this simple interaction.

"You've done it again," he scolded himself, probably right out loud to nobody in particular. Then he recounts, "I had unnecessarily rejected Susan with an act of incivility on my part."

One couple made this announcement early in their marriage. "We will not have any arguments." And you know what? They didn't! It was a very polite home. But then what? Unspoken tensions, but tensions nonetheless, and the kids, who learned to ride it out, later began to vent in very hurtful ways. "The hallmark of civility is not conflict avoiding pretenses," says Peck, "but the commitment to deal with significant issues," notice these words, "in kindly, thoughtful ways." And my words are "that preserve people and point."

To those of you who confront fairly well, fairly easily, remember, please, many of us are not good at confronting! We can't take it very well! It's our fault that we can't take it very well. So please! Be easy on us!
Musing Five. Is civility tied to one sex or another? I've wondered about that for a while. Now a little data are in. At least one recent study shows the news is not good for the guys.

Fourteen hundred people in the marketplace were polled. And the results, in short, are that men instigate rudeness 70 percent of the time. Reason? Downsizing, pressure to do more with less, and even technology which allows workers to zap people anonymously. And some males, no doubt, still continue to feel superior to females. And, if that's the case, that, too, would translate into rude, perfunctory treatment, wouldn't it? That's Musing Five.

Musing Six. I wonder if there's a language of incivility. I think there is. I think there are four ways in which we can identify incivility through language. Two of these come straight out of informal logic. One. Hasty generalization is one in which there is a tendency to draw conclusions based on very limited data. I happen to be an expert at that. So I know a little of what I speak. I can draw a conclusion in a minute! about you. And usually it's faulty. And one of the hallmarks of this kind of stuff is allness statements: never, almost, always, and every. Two. False dilemma. That, too, comes from the world of informal logic. We tend to see the poles only and very little stuff in between. Our son, who's here tonight, once said, when we didn't permit his going to a party, "Well, I'm just gonna go to my room, shut the door, and stay there the rest of the night." This, we thought, was a pretty fair idea. This is immature thinking, just right for a kid his age. But it's not right for kids our age. So that's false dilemma. It's one of the ways we express our incivilities.

Three. Blame or deny. Take these examples: "Well, you know I wasn't here when they made that decision." "Well, you know they do that at the GC. They just hand down the retirement policies to us." "Well, you know when we moved in here five years ago I didn't want to put up with that carpet." "It's your fault." "I didn't buy it; you bought it!" This is very common language in moments of uncivil feelings.

Finally, sandbagging. Sandbagging means we store up our stuff. And then at some moment when pushed and tripped, we pour it out, relevant or not. Let me hypothesize that people like me and some of you who aren't very good confronters are very good at sandbagging because if we don't express it now or at some relevant time, then we're going to pack it in, aren't we? We hang onto it for a while, don't we? And then when tripped, when pushed, our stuff may tend to come out, relevant or not.

That's my take on the language of incivility.

And one more. What about the common courtesies we all talk about? Where have they gone? What once was, "I'm sorry I don't know," is now "I have no idea." What once was "You're welcome," now has become "No problem." In some contexts, that expression is its own form of denigration. It's a put-down. What once was "Hi" or "Hello" has become "Hey!" And even in fine restaurants, lastly, you and your spouse may be reduced to "you guys."

Are there any styles in incivility? I want to talk for a moment about some styles of incivility. First, blockade. When this style of incivility comes along in your house or your classroom, you know somebody's feeling a little uptight.

Here's the way it works: "Did you pick up the papers this morning?" "Uh uh." "Well, did you get a chance to talk to the boss this afternoon about that raise?" "Yep." "What did he say?" "Nothing." "And, by the way, did you call the insurance company?" "Uh uh." "And did you .....?" "No." The books on social linguistics talk about men who like to come home at night and do blocking. Because they've been with people all day, they don't want to answer some of the most civil, simple questions. So they block, or blockade, or withhold.
Second, terminal. This is another style of incivility. The terminal style says, "I don't want to talk about it any more. We've had enough of this. We've gone round and round on this, and let's be quiet from now on." There's no difficulty with terminals if that's the way you really feel, except that, if you want to terminate it just on your terms, that's unfair. Why must I communicate with you on your terms? Shouldn't we communicate with us on our terms? Shouldn't we negotiate some of this stuff? The minute you tell me to communicate on your terms I am in some sense being controlled by you. And you're taking advantage of me, or I of you.

And then another style. The books of psychology call this defensiveness. I call it crossed. It's where sparks fly in the middle. "Did you pick up the books today from the library?" "I can't do everything!" is the reply. The question wasn't "How much can you do?" The question was, "Did you pick up the books?" So that's another evidence of incivility.

Let's go now to some civilities. First, a definition: Intentional behavior from people who know what they're doing and have some sense of how it helps. Let's look through some windows of civility.
Window One: I wonder if there's a language of civility just as surely as there is a language of incivility. I think there is, and here are some of the expressions of civility: "I understand your point." "I was wrong." "I'm sorry for that." "You know, that was my fault." "Help me be clear." "I get your point, but I see it differently." "I think you're right." Those are some of the words of civil interaction between us.

And would there be a style of civility? Congruent communication is one. I think it takes place when we speak relevantly to each other's point. And we do that in several ways. One is with what I call the CC. We compare and we contrast. Here are some examples.

"I remember a story like that," or "You know, that's the way they treated me in high school too!" So we compare. Contrast goes like this: "I have never had that experience before." "That's a new thought to me. In fact, I'm not sure it works that way."

A second piece of congruent communication is acting like a journalist who likes to ask who, why, what, when, where, and how. The most powerful one is why. Nobody suffers from asking too many questions. We did it as kids, but we've forgotten that strategy.

And the third piece of congruent communication is what I call rhetorical reinforcers. It's a fancy word for some very uncomplicated strategies. They are: "Oh! Is that right." "Could that be?" "Never heard of such a thing before." "How about that?" "You nailed it." "Perfect!" "Exactly!" "Absolutely!" "Please say more." That's a rare statement amongst us. And maybe it's because the people with whom you might venture to say that will really take you up on it! But we're big kids now. We can do things in civil ways. What keeps us from it?
I like the style of congruent communicating. We speak relevantly to each other's point by comparing, contrasting, the five W's, the H, and rhetorical reinforcers. That's Window One.

Window Two: Civility knows no pretenses. It is its own reward. It is enjoyed here by many of you. You have no pretenses. You are who you are. This is a straight-on crowd! You are who you are, and it's 99 percent good!

I've always been moved by Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," that old classic. I want to tell you about a piece in "Our Town." Thornton Wilder casts a guy by the name of the stage manager. He's an actual player, but he sits out in front informally conversing with the crowd. And there's a lady in the balcony who's been planted there, but she's an actual player. At some point about halfway through the play Wilder has the stage manager and the lady in the balcony conversing. And here's what happens: She leans out and says, "Isn't there a lot of beauty and culture here in Grover's Corner?" And the droll stage manager, in his own disarming way with no pretenses, says, "Well, no, lady, I'd say there ain't much. Oh, the ladies get together down at the Methodist Church every Wednesday night for choir practice, and a stage show comes through here about once a year, but, no, lady, I'd say as a regular thing Grover's Corner ain't much interested in culture." Now this is not elegant rhetoric. But this is unpretentious rhetoric. It's honest, it's sooooo civil. That's Window Two.

Window Three: "The civil amongst us," says a writer by the name of Goffman, "are thoroughly housebroken." How come? In what way? We are secure in who we are. And I know too many of you not to know that's exactly the way it works for you. You are secure in who you are. "We're honest. We're modest. We're good sports." - I like that one - "We're poised under pressure. We're fairly 'housebroken,'"says Irving Goffman.
I'll read you Max Ehrman's piece from the "Desiderata." "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant. They have their stories too. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars, and you have a right to be here. Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding much as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, wherever you consider Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noise and confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all the sham and drudgery and broken dreams, it's still a beautiful world."

I am moved by that.

Out of the same window, I was moved by something I read from Calvin Coolidge. It's the story of how his 16-year-old son died while Coolidge was in the White House. Notice what the story says about Coolidge. "The day I became president he, (Calvin Jr.) had just started to work in the tobacco field. And one of his fellow laborers said to him: 'If my father were president, I would not work in a tobacco field!' Calvin, the son, replied, 'If my father were your father, you would.' After the son had died at age 16, someone sent us a letter he had written about the same time to a young boy who had congratulated him on being the first boy of the land. To this he replied he had done nothing and so did not merit the title which should go to some boy who had distinguished himself through his own actions.

"We don't know what might have happened to him under other circumstances, but if I had not been president, he would not have raised a blister on his toe, which resulted in blood poisoning, playing lawn tennis on the south lawn. In his suffering he would ask me to make him well. But I couldn't do that. When he went, the power and the glory of the presidency went with him.

"The ways of Providence are often beyond our understanding. It seemed to me that the world had need of the work that probably he could yet do." And his last line, "I do not know why such a price was exacted for occupying the White House."

Coolidge's honest candor was a form of civility, a form of healing. I wonder if Coolidge had lately read Colossians. I think so. It goes: "Let your speech be always with grace, savored with salt, so that you may know how to respond to each person." Col. 4:6. I think he read that.

And Window Four: I think civility may be in its best form when we identify with and project into other people's souls and spirits. I think that's done so well in one of Frost's best-known stories, "The Death of the Hired Man." You remember that the old hired hand, Silas, came back. And presumably he came back to die. But Mary's heart was with the old man. Let me just give you a couple of scenes from "The Death of the Hired Man."

"Mary sat musing in the lamplight at the table, waiting for Warren. When she heard his step she ran on tiptoe down the darkened passage to meet him at the doorway with the news and put him on his guard, 'Silas is back!' She pushed him outward with her back to the door and shut it after her. 'Be kind,' she said. She took the market things from Warren's arms and set them on the porch, then pulled him down to sit beside her on the wooden steps.

"'When was I anything but kind to him? But I'll not have that fellow back,' he said. 'I told him so last haying, didn't I? If he left then, I said, that ended it. What good is he anyway? Who else would have him at his age for the little he can do?'" That's Warren speaking.

The conversation ebbs and flows. But then comes a point with Mary's speaking one more time. "'He's come to help you ditch the meadow. He has a plan. You mustn't laugh at him. He may not speak of it. And then he may. I'll sit and see if that small sailing cloud will hit or miss the moon.' It hit the moon. Then there were three there, making a dim row, the moon, the little silver cloud, and she. Warren returned too soon, it seemed to her, slipped to her side, caught up her hand, and whispered. 'Warren?' she questioned. 'Dead,' is all he answered."

It's a haunting piece. Poor Silas. But he's home now. He's home now! "The place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." He's home now. And Mary? Mary's no wimp! She doesn't cave in to Warren! I like that! But she senses the soul of the matter. I think she possesses inordinate sensibility and civility, truly the work of a humane person, treading, as she was, evermore lightly upon the earth, all the while treating those still inhabiting it with respect.

So we've looked through several windows on civility, windows of looking and feeling and healing civilly. Are there any other ways to respond?

It's here I get specific. One: Acknowledge somebody on E-mail. It would take about 120 seconds, or a tad more.

Two: Better yet, send some hard copy. Acknowledge somebody on hard copy. We're big kids now! We can be civil! Why do we stifle it?

Three: Compliment in triplicate. Write a note at the top. Let's say it's to the janitor gal. "Judy, I can now see out my window since you cleaned it. I didn't know there was a tree out there!" You rip off the top copy and send it to Judy. The supervisor at custodial gets the second copy. The vice president of financial administration gets the third copy. Everybody wins! It's a compliment in triplicate!

Another: I do the Golden Clip Award. There it is, the Golden Clip! And with a little note I send it to somebody whom I value in some way. And to prove that the Golden Clip works, at least two people have framed the blooming thing. Just a Clip!

Or write a note on tonight's program. What else is it worth now? Write to somebody who isn't here. Don't send it to me. Somebody who's not here--just a note. And what about a rose? Don't get a dozen, get just one. It says the same thing, and a way lot cheaper! Give a single rose on Friday afternoon. We're big kids now; we can do these things!

At the end, come up and get a rose and give it to somebody here that you happen to value in some simple way. Or two: Take a rose and give it to somebody who happens not to be here tonight. Or three: Come up and get a rose and keep it. Just keep it! How long has it been for a number of you since you've had a compliment or a flower from somebody who values you? And it just as well be from you if it isn't going to be from anybody else.

There's one more thing. Can we tolerate it? "Perspectives on living the civil life." At the risk of insulting us, I am going to read what's on the screen, with one or two exceptions on each one.

* When I am capable of self-evaluation, I am capable of self-improvement, and my view and treatment of you will be more free of distortion and unwarranted assumptions.
* We have taken the high road to civility, you and I, when we deal with each other as civilly out of our presence as if we were in it. (That is a high Christian calling, and few of us get around that very well, I among you.)
* The intentional civility we express for peers and family may seem to be more frequently offered to them and more significant to us than to the receiver. But don't give up.
* Greater civility starts with an attitude. I want to treat colleagues and family with the high respect that I deserve myself.
* Civility's words are to forebear, to be kind, and offer gentle candor. Don't be too tough on us, but offer gentle candor.
* That you and I disagree need no longer separate us.
* It's right to tell the truth, but it may be wrong always to be telling it.
* Politeness may have its own agenda of pseudosincerity, while civility may be gently confrontational.
* "A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally," and certainly not intentionally.
* "One can never do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late." Ralph Waldo Emerson.
* Timing preserves the fragile moments of a civil relationship.
* When we let another's uncivil behavior or unthinking remark ruin our day, that ruining takes place with our own consent.
* When others agree with us, it's no assurance they're right.
* Relationships that last are formed between people who share nearly equal listening time.
* One of the greatest compliments we can offer to anybody is to pay attention to him or her, and we show that from listening responsively. It's called congruent.
And so I'll close. The musings, the windows, and thirty minutes more than I ever planned.
* I refuse to agree with you until I've understood you. The big word for that is isomorphism.
* I refuse to disagree with you until I've understood you.
* Since I already know what I know, why don't I compel myself to find out what you know?

Shall we settle for the low road of assumptions, distrust, nuances, hurtful rhetoric, hurtful deeds? No! Civility is a choice. Many of you are making it right along. It's a choice to see and treat everybody as precious.
Let's travel the high road of civility, not into the new millenium, that's too far away. Let's do it tonight and all of tomorrow and all the days ahead. Ah! That's civil! That's good! And that's the end.

About the Author

Loren Dickinson, professor of communication, is the 1999-2000 Walla Walla College Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, an honor given to one faculty member each year in recognition of academic scholarship and service to WWC.

Dickinson has taught public speaking, persuasive speaking, small group communication, and interpersonal communication at Walla Walla College for more than 35 years. He chaired the communication department and managed the college radio station for more than 20 years.

He was honored for his excellence in classroom instruction with the Burlington Northern Teaching Excellence Award in 1987 and with the Alumni Association Annual Award in 1991.

He has presented motivational workshops and seminars for such groups as The Navigators, Florida Home Health Services, National Society for Fundraising Executives International, and Loma Linda University School of Allied Health.

He's married and has two grown children. In his spare time, he builds dog condominiums and details classic automobiles.

Perspectives on Living the Civil Life

   * When I'm capable of self-evaluation, I'm capable of self improvement, and my view and treatment of you will be more free of distortions and unwarranted assumptions.
    * We've taken the high road to civility, you and I , when we deal with each other as civilly out of our presence as if we were in it.
    * Our interpersonal and corporate lives are not marked by inordinate forgiveness (even of others' unintentional incivilities). But forgiveness releases us to wholeness again.
    * The intentional civility we express for peers and family may seem more frequently offered and more significant to us than to the receiver; but we must persist.
    * To hold others to your wishes for them may be to engage in controlling dysfunction.
    * Greater civility starts with an attitude. "I want to treat colleagues and family with the high respect that I deserve myself"
    * Civility's verbs are to forebear, to be kind, and to offer gentle candor.
    * That you and I disagree need no longer separate us.
    * It's right to tell the truth, but it may be wrong always to be telling it.
    * Politeness may have its own agenda of pseudo-sincerity, while civility may be gently confrontational.
    * That's an intriguing blend between being interesting and interested. The first, interesting, is "I" centered. Interested is "Thou" centered.
    * Our rhetoric, oral and written, should transpire in an atmosphere of goodwill.
    * "A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally."
    * "One cannot do a kindness to soon for you never know how soon it will be too late." Ralph Waldo Emerson
    * "Since the Great Maker, despite our sins, considers each one of us worthy of His unconditional love, isn't it incumbent upon us to offer each other at least some 'faintly corresponding measure of dignity'" Scott Peck
    * We can't assume our views are identical with anyone else's.
    * Timing preserves the fragile moments of a civil relationship.
    * When we face that which cannot or need not change in someone else, then we are the change agent.
    * When we let another's uncivil behavior or unthinking remark ruin our day, that ruining takes place with our own consent.
    * Should others need to know our virtues, why not let others tell others?
    * One has grown considerably in personal and professional relationships when the last words of a spat are not one's own.
    * Civil and lasting relationships are formed usually between two people who share nearly equal listening time.
    * Since others have to listen to us, why don't we listen to ourselves?
    * That others agree with us is no assurance they're right.
    * One of the greatest civilities we can offer others is to pay attention to then. And we show that by listening responsively.


   * Coles, Robert (1995). The Mind's Fate. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

    * DeVito, Joseph A. (2000). Human Communication. The Basic Course. New York: Longman.

    * Newman, Edwin (1976). A Civil Tongue. Indianapolis: The Bobbs Merrill Company, Inc.

    * Peck, M. Scott (1993). A World Waiting to be Born. New York: Bantam Books.

    * Wood, Julie (1995). Relational Communication. Wadsworth Publishing Company.