General Information on Civility

A broad look at incivility versus civility

The term “incivility” can refer to a wide variety of behaviors and can be interpreted differently by each person. Incivility does not mean conflict, dissent, or disagreement; incivility is about how conflict, dissent, or disagreement is handled.

Incivility can be hard to define, but is one of those things that most people say they recognize when they see it or feel it. When local officials talk about incivility, they could be referring to everything from how members of the governing body interact with and treat each other, to deteriorating relationships, insensitivity, and downright abusive behavior between the elected officials and city staff, and even how community residents treat their elected officials and, too often, each other in public settings. A divided government body or a divided community that uses the tactics of incivility will face significant difficulties in governing and reaching its goals.

Civility, on the other hand, is demonstrated by those who understand their roles and respect the process. There are effective strategies when working among differences. Civility is a tool for working with strongly held different views, not a way to silence or ignore them. Leaders that demonstrate civility can have useful debate and make better decisions.

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