84 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2002
Read and thoroughly enjoyed CHOOSING CIVILITY by
Dr. P.M. Forni, a professor who teaches civility and Italian
literature at Johns Hopkins University . . . it is a little but
thoughtful book that I strongly recommend to anybody looking to
make life both easier and more enjoyable . . . we all find ourselves surrounded by those we perceive as inconsiderate (never us,of course!) . . . but how can we manage to live with such people?
Forni presents lots of useful examples, as well as advice,
on how to answer that question . . . in addition, he provides
25 rules that readers are urged to at least ponder . . . some
of them are as follows:
Apologize earnestly and thoughtfully
Avoid personal questions,
Don't shift responsibility and blame
While all these might seem basic, in reality, they
are quite a bit trickier to follow . . . but Forni
got me thinking about them, and that's a good
thing . . . now to actually implement them into
my daily existence, well . . . that's something
I can at least work toward!
There were many memorable passages; among them:
Healthy young men from two Harvard classes of the early
1950s were asked to fill out a questionnaire that would
assess how close they were to their parents. A check of
their medical records 35 years later yielded intriguing data.
One hundred percent of the men who had reported low levels
of closeness to both parents had been diagnosed in the following
years with serious diseases such as heart disease and duodenal
ulcer. Among those who had reported good, warm relationships with both parents only 47 percent had been similarly diagnosed.
A colleague tells me over the telephone that she went to Florida for a vacation. Instead of asking her how her vacation was, I hasten to tell her how I feel about Florida. I quickly add what I like to do when I am there. And finally, I break the fascinating news that I was there two years ago, didn't go last winter, but hope to return the next. The result: my colleague's
experience and feelings get lost completely in my inane
and self-centered rambling.
It's Saturday morning and you are not planning
to go out all day. Do you have to shave? Do you
have to wash your hair? Do you have to wear clean
underwear even if that means doing a load of laundry
because you underwear drawer is empty? Maybe you
want to shave, wash your hair, and wear clean underwear,
because you wouldn't be comfortable otherwise. But
you may need and incentive. If it's hard to do the
grooming just for yourself, do it for those who share
your home. No one will be physically closer to you
for a longer time than your companion, your spouse,
and your family. Make sure that your body care is
such that it adds to their pleasure in being with you.
Let's disabuse ourselves of the rather common
notion that although we are expected to be well
groomed in public, there is nothing wrong with a little
private slovenliness. This is part of a larger assumption
that good manners in general can be forgotten
when we are with those closest to us. On the contrary,
being civil to them is one of the most concrete ways
to show them that we love them.
And, lastly, with respect to how long a visit should be,
I chuckled at his use of Jane Austin's witty observation:
"It was a delightful visit--being much too short."
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2002
Psychotherapists often work with clients who, for a variety of reasons, just can't seem to get along with other people. Teachers of psychotherapy work with trainees who are learning how to get along with their clients. Families face questions about how to help things run smoothly and how to help children behave better.
P.M. Forni's small but mighty new reference, Choosing Civility, is the only book I can recommend to all readers. And if readers are open to his insights and willing to do things differently to improve their relationships at home and at work, Choosing Civility may be the only book they'll ever need.
Forni has produced a book that is at once smart yet accessible to a wide audience. It is full of concrete examples and personal anecdotes, and it is written in a warm, engaging tone that is usually impossible for academics to achieve.
Though it will eventually appear effortless, civility requires work - conscious effort guided by vision and perseverance. We "make" nice after all, but the practice of civility, as Forni's well-sourced text reveals, is the royal road to health and happiness. Not only is civility the path to personal contentment and connection, but it's good for business too. Often, nice guys do finish first.
We have been led astray into thinking that it is somehow more honest to be in touch with our feelings and blurt out whatever comes to mind to whomever we encounter rather than seeing training in etiquette as being training in sensitivity. Civility encourages strength and assertiveness, and it helps us find the tools to say the right thing at the right time to the right person, not everything to anyone. Civility will help people speak freely, not intemperately or abusively.
Choosing Civility offers many valuable relationship management strategies. Everything about relationships, in psychotherapy and beyond, is knowable. Choosing Civility is the ideal companion while we risk reaching out to our preferred visions of the future and ourselves.
64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2003
Dr. Forni addresses a root problem in our ailing society: civility is on the wane. Scads of people act rudely, crudely and indifferently without hesitation; it's as automatic to them as eating and breathing. Forni gives us 25 thoughtful rules of conduct to become a civilized person and by reading them, allow us to take a hard look at ourselves to make sure we are not part of this burgeoning incivility problem.
Forni also comments on different aspects of civility: why is it in such short supply? He hits the nail on the head: we all "live among strangers." Incivility is much safer when we are dishing out rudeness to someone we do not know. Indeed, if we know someone, it may stop our rudeness in our tracks (as Forni conveys in an amusing way).
All that said, I hope the book comes out in a second edition, with the following improvements:
* Dr. Forni's text occassionally sounds too eriudite and scholarly. Much of the book avoids this textbookish tone, but not all. I am sure Forni would readily agree we want as many people as possible from all walks of life to pick up this book and read it cover to cover!
* The book is strong on how to be civil, but light on advice on how to deal with incivility. (Sadly, the clods out there who desperately NEED to read this book won't.) Forni observes that one need not be a doormat with a uncivil person, but rather convey firmness in a civil way. Exactly how one can effectively convey such firmness in the face of uncivilized behavior is not sufficiently answered in this book.
All in all, Forni fills a gaping void by addressing the issue of incivility in our society. As Forni states, good manners make for better quality lives. For that reason alone, anyone should be willing to give civility a chance.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2002
Choosing Civility is a much-needed book. The world that we live in seems to have lost touch with the things that are truly important: connection, friendship and loyalty. These things are all acheivable through one simple concept: civility.
PM Forni's book is simple and straightforward. I was worried that, because of the academic background that I found in his biography, the book might be too difficult and cerebral. Fortunately, the writing is concise and accessible; witty and fresh, so the concepts Forni puts forward are easy to understand and implement. This isn't to say, though, that the book is trivial. There is some serious research behind the writing, and the author seems to be very passionate about his subject.
Choosing Civility is a wonderful book to read, and the message is important. A definite winner!
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2002
Various levels of inconsiderate behavior seem to have become daily habits in our goal-oriented society. Whether it's malicious office gossip or road rage, such incivility essentially contributes to decreased personal and professional satisfaction. But in today's fast-paced world, it seems a constant challenge to maintain poise and cordiality in the face of everyday difficulties. With the author's preceding claim that he is a 'flawed messenger bearing a good message', P.M. Forni offers a combination of common sense and ethics which culminate in a rediscovery of strategies to become more sensitive and considerate towards eachother. His thoughtful handbook Choosing Civility is more than a simple manners guide or book of etiquette rules, but an unearthing of the inherent values that somehow got trampled upon in our modern day race towards success. This enjoyable and insightful book is worth anyone's time who values their physiological health, interpersonal relationships, job satisfaction, or company's bottom line.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2005
It's refreshing to come across P.M. Forni's `Choosing Civility', a gentle reminder on the importance of being civilized in a world that usually appears more civilized than it is. Chortle all you want, like I did when I first saw the title. When in the 19th century did you last hear that word, `civility'? And doesn't civility rhyme with hee-hee?
But think about the times you've been at the receiving end of this attitude - the boss who never says things to unnecessarily hurt you; the colleague who always does what he says when he says; the tea lady who shows real pleasure in serving you.
Now, could you think of anyone cooler?
Like loyalty, like kindness, like every human trait that helps us make our way through this world, civility will always be valued, hence it will always be timeless.
These twenty-five rules are nothing most of us don't already know but unless we've been taught by conscientious parents growing up and have ourselves been conscientious, we may not think too much about it. Things we don't think about, we get lazy about. This book is a timeless reminder.
Naturally, because `Choosing Civility' is all about getting along famously with each other, everyone benefits. For example, if it were made compulsory reading at schools, specifically driving schools, that is if Rule 1. Pay Attention, Rule 2. Acknowledge Others, Rule 14. Respect Other People's Time and Rule 15. Respect Other People's Space were applied, there could be a lot less swearing on the roads. Ditto for anyone else who has to share public space with others...
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2005
Calling this an etiquette book is misleading; it's a guide to living morally in increasingly me-me times. Forni's advice-ranging from how to make guests feel included to how to apologize to how to assert yourself-all hinges around one all-important ideal: recognizing yourself as part of a larger community. To that end, the basis of civility and the 25 tips are all about learning to recognize how our actions affect others and ultimately come back to impact ourselves. Forni makes a strong case that civility is an ethical code, and it's obvious by his warm, humanist take (there's no doctrinaire rules-issuing here) that he practices what he preaches.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I read *Choosing Civility* because I found that the pressure of living in a crowded city was beginning to make me a bit misanthropic towards my fellow humankind, which led to me becoming a bit less civil in my behavior in this crowded world. I wanted a refresher on how to treat my fellow man in a manner that I wished to be treated myself. I also read this book because I saw that the pressures and pace of the modern world was beginning to break down our civilization.
*Choosing Civility* definitely delivered on my first need, it made me more conscious of the little things that lead to better interactions with people; little things like ensuring that I respect the personal space of others in a conversation, being inclusive of everyone in a group such as my coworkers, refraining from idle complaining, and respecting other people's time. After reading this book, I found myself noticing moments where I was being uncivil in small ways and allowing me the opportunity to correct these behaviors.
Where the book falls short, at least for my needs, but not necessarily for everyone, is in how to deal with and accept the uncivil behavior of others. Before reading this book, I was aware of a general incivility in our everyday lives; but, after reading this book, I became painfully aware of how bad the problem was and the book didn't prepare me properly for those times when I felt the victim of uncivil actions and how to remain civil myself at the moments.
A Guide to my Book Rating System:
1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2002
This is a wonderfully compact and concise volume that constructively considers the reasons behind contemporary society's loss of civility, chronicles the reasons for and benefits of adopting a more civil code of behavior, and offers twenty-five sensible rules of well-mannered and thoughtful conduct. I have met and corresponded with the author, a humanities professor at Johns Hopkins University, on a few occasions, and he is most definitely a gentleman in the the most civilized definition of the word. Put this useful and well-written book on your shelf next to those time-honored Post, Martin, and Vanderbilt tomes.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2002
This is a small, well-written book with the power to change the world. Anyone who thinks that manners are only for the snobbish, should read Forni's book, and realize that the manner in which we treat each other is what will ultimately lead to a successful civilization, not to mention greater personal happiness.