Civility can be (Nicely) Selfish.

            Civility is getting a lot of press these days, but sometimes it seems not a lot of practice.  I am one of the lucky ones, as I live and work among those who practice it.  Life is so much nicer this way!

            The word ‘civility’ itself comes from the Latin word, ‘civitas’, meaning ‘city’.  City – a place where people live in community, in close proximity; they rub elbows and say ‘Hi!’ as they pass; they allow each other to merge in heavy traffic; they are patient as the old lady in front of them counts out her change.  They live and work together, and like many gears all moving at different speeds within the machine, they allow Civility to be the oil that facilitates and softens the harshness of their meshing.  The oil makes it smooth.  The oil allows all the different parts to mesh together.  The oil makes all the parts last longer.  The oil keeps things from breaking down.

We at The St. James Tearoom care about Civility, of course.  It is one of our 5 Aspirations: “Grace, Civility, Beauty, Gentility, and Excellence”.  We talk about it behind the scenes and try to practice it at all times, with each other and with our guests.   Our culture is openly starting to talk about it, too, and make a little noise about the incivility that is becoming more and more rampant.  According to the Weber Shandwick ‘Civility in America 2011’ Survey, this is what Americans think:

In scientific experiments done on university students, to test how rudeness affects cognitive ability, researchers found a 30% drop in cognitive function, and 33% drop in creativity in students that were subjected to rudeness in class.  This is a horrifying figure, devastating to the oiled machine ‘Civitas‘ we all hope to inhabit.  And it doesn’t surprise me!  Rudeness shatters one’s peace of mind, instantly puts one on the defensive or causes an inward closing, a backing off and disengagement.  Think what this means in a class of 5th graders, or 10th graders, or chemical engineers.  Think what it means in the surgery!  In our businesses and homes!  A 30% loss in cognitive function?!  A 33% loss of creativity?!  How much of a handicap we labor under due to rudeness.  How far behind are we because of it?  The cost of incivility is great – maybe greater than we can even imagine.

Imagine, with the oil of Civility flowing in our communities, we could be 30% smarter and 33% more creative!  Think of the problems we could solve!  So in our own self interest, we find Civility adds to the wealth of our community.  If we want to get the most out of our classrooms and teachers, the most out of our co-workers, the most out of our public discussions, and the most out of that grumpy clerk that doesn’t seem interested in helping us, Civility adds, Rudeness subtracts.

The Smart Community,

the Creative Community,

is the CIVIL Community.

            Selfishly, we also know rudeness removes our joy in work, our closeness to friends and associates; it reduces our efficiency, our fun, and even our compensation.  Civility is just so much more pleasant!

So yes, we would like to officially announce that we at The St. James Tearoom will be selfishly pursuing a policy of civility wherever we can.   (And we hope you will be, too.)

Yours for a return to Grace, CIVILITY, Beauty, Gentility, and Excellence,

Mary Alice and Daniel Higbie


  1. Sara Hacala says:

    In a world where too many are desperately seeking to “Keep up with the Kardashians,” I’m gratified to know that there are kindred spirits out there whose interests and activities are more elevated. Having recently written a book on civility, spreading the word as to why civility matters is my passionate mission! Bravo to the St. James Tearoom!

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