Book by P.M. Forni
Review by Kim Wright
Woodbury School of Business
Utah Valley University
Choosing Civility focuses on what civility is and how to apply decency in our everyday lives (p.4). Throughout the book, Forni discusses rules of conduct to help us connect, do the right things for each other and be a contributing member of the community (p.14).
Forni believes that standards of behavior can be problematic and complex but “…that a crucial measure of our success in life is the way we treat one another every day of our lives” (p. 4). Part of that includes being considerate (p. 7) and taking responsibility for our actions (p.14).
While Choosing Civility is not specifically directed towards advisors, this book can be a useful tool in helping advisors talk with their students about the importance of professional behavior in their everyday lives.
Advisors can play an important role in fostering civility among their students not only by expecting them to behave correctly but also by teaching them about the importance of professional behavior. How many of us have had to compete for a student’s attention because they are more interested in texting or how many of us have dealt with students who don’t think it is a big deal to show up late for their appointment? Advisors have a great opportunity to turn these situations into teaching moments.
Each of Forni’s twenty-five rules is a guide to behaving civilly in our personal and professional dealings with others. While all of the chapters are a good reminder of how we should behave towards others, there are a few rules that I have found to be especially relevant in helping students make the most of their experiences on our college campuses.
The first rule is to pay attention. While this seems to be simple and obvious Forni points out that by paying attention to others we are “…acknowledging and honoring…” their worth (p. 38). This applies to both advisors and students – we should be fully present in our conversations with each other in order to make the most of the time we have with each other.
The other rule that stood out to me as a relevant issue is respecting other people’s time. Forni discusses time as a precious commodity to be valued (p. 97). Being punctual is a “basic rule of considerate behavior” and is “nonnegotiable” (p.97). Students should know the importance of being on time and being prepared for their appointment with their advisor. This type of behavior is not appropriate nor acceptable in college or in the workforce.
Forni’s closing thoughts are that there is nothing as important as having quality interactions with others. Better interactions equal a better life; behaving civilly is as simple as taking time to stop and think before we act.
I appreciated that the book was long enough to explore the subject matter and short enough to keep my attention. Forni didn’t prattle on-and-on; instead he clearly presented his ideas and provided personal examples, quotes and practical advice to emphasize his points. He provide simple messages with many thought provoking reasons why civility is important.
Our students are being judged in class, in internships, in job interviews and on graduate applications, so it is important that we empower our students to be successful by holding them accountable to reasonable standards of behavior. Choosing Civility is a good book to keep on hand to refer to over-and-over again.
Choosing Civility: The twenty-five rules of considerate conduct. (2002). Book by P.M. Forni. Review by Kim Wright. New York: Palgrave Macmillian. 196 pp., $12.99 (paperback), ISBN: 0-312-30250-9