I was engaged in a blurb of news when I landed in a Reddit thread about a recent Supreme Court decision. The Reddit forum quickly spiraled into an “I’m right and you’re wrong” shouting match.
As I watched the verbal carnage, I thought about information in one of my favorite books: Choosing Civility: The 25 rules of considerate conduct. It’s written by P.M. Forni and its 185-pages are bursting with lessons to help us stay civil in our highly polarized country.
Here are several of my favorite lessons from Choosing Civility:
Lesson #3: Think The Best.
Forni asks us to think the best in others. He writes, “When we approach others assuming that they are good, honest, and sensitive, we often encourage them to be just that.” Forni does not want us to be gullible. He challenges us to be open, accepting and realistic.
Lesson #6: Speak Kindly.
It’s easy to let our venom flow. We enter a Reddit thread and unleash our hostility onto random people. It takes restraint to not do this. For most of us restraint can be harder than impulsiveness. But restraint is often healthier for us in the long run. One way to restraint is to be kind to others.
Lesson #10: Respect Others’ Opinions.
We don’t have to agree with someone. In fact, it is okay to righteously disagree because a democracy requires dissension. At the same time, we can be polite towards other people whose opinions we disagree with.
Lesson #16: Apologize Earnestly.
It takes guts and courage to apologize. But apologizing means we take responsibility for ourselves. It’s also a sign of a grounded and confident person.
Lesson #22: Refrain from Idle Complaints.
There are times when complaining can be healthy. But doing it on a regular basis does not serve us. It keeps us mired in seeing the problems in the world instead of seeing beauty. Our challenge is to refrain from idle complaining.
Lesson 25: Don’t Shift Responsibility and Blame.
We all have flaws. We all make mistakes. We all do and say things we wish we hadn’t done and said. It’s okay to have flaws and make mistakes. What is not okay is when we blame someone (or something) for our mistakes. It can be hard to say: “I made a mistake. I’m sorry. I will do better next time.” But this phrase can also be one of the most cathartic in our vocabulary.