Coordinated Community Response Column

Civility, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as “a polite act or expression.” Seems easy enough, right? Sometimes it isn’t that easy and we find ourselves walking a fine line. Whether it is in our own relationship, a board meeting, or a school function – we all have had moments where civility goes out the window and our frustration clouds our ability to engage appropriately. But how do you go about educating your community, as a whole, on civility?

The Door County Civility Project is a great start. They have partnered with the Oshkosh Civility Project in an effort to bring this wonderful program to Door County and I recently had the pleasure of attending one of their training sessions. The goal is to restore civilized conversation to everyday life in the hopes that Door County will continue to be a place where people love to be. All members of our community are encouraged to participate, take action, and recognize that civility can start with you.

There are nine basic principles identified by the Oshkosh Civility Project:

• Pay attention: be aware and attend to the world and people around you.

• Listen: focus on others in order to better understand their points of view.

• Be inclusive: welcome all groups of citizens working for the greater good of the community.

• Don’t gossip: and don’t accept when others choose to do so.

• Show respect: honor other people and their opinions, especially in the midst of a disagreement.

• Be agreeable: look for opportunities to agree. Don’t contradict just to do so.

• Apologize: be sincere and repair damaged relationships.

• Give constructive criticism: when disagreeing, stick to the issues and don’t make a personal attack.

• Take responsibility: don’t shift responsibility and blame onto others; share disagreements publicly.

They seem like simple concepts – something most of us learned years ago – but a conscious effort to integrate them into your daily life is a much greater responsibility.

Everything is not black and white nor should we expect it to be. Our livelihood depends on debate and how we foster a difference of opinion. Embrace the differences, instead of challenging ideas and trying to change people to be more like you. Understand that we all have experiences that make us who we are and respect others for where they are or how far they have come.

It isn’t just the words we say or the way we say them, I believe it is the words we choose, the way we say them, and the actions we choose to put behind those words. We can work together to make our community better and to make our everyday lives better. We just have to make the choice – the choice to speak, act and be better. Not perfect, just better.

For more information about the Door County Civility Project, email [email protected] or find them on Facebook.

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.