Civility, noun. “Formal politeness and courtesy in behaviour or speech”
Most people place a great deal of importance on being civil to each other. It’s probably for the best, since by definition civilisation itself wouldn’t exist if they didn’t. Civility is the grease that oils the chain, it’s the sugar on the pill, the plaster on the brickwork, and it can help make difficult conversations possible. Those who do manage to be civil are generally well-liked, they earn respect and put themselves in a good position to prosper – in the most holistic sense of the word. With civility, is it simply a case of more equals better?
Since each of us has to contend with a comprehensive list of minor irritations every day of our lives, an enormous mutual non-aggression pact has developed whereby all of us make some effort to try not to bother other people in exchange for them extending us the same courtesy. People failing to abide by the terms of this unspoken understanding cause a grinding of the social gears and reduce the amount of goodwill in the community.
But an excess of civility also brings trouble. Critically important though it is, civility is really the same type of stuff as varnish or veneer, and has the same weaknesses. The first is that it cannot work alone and must be applied to something more useful than itself. Nobody would buy a chain made entirely of oil, they wouldn’t be helped by pills that were all sugar and a house made of plaster would be blown away in a gale.
The second weakness is that, as with varnish or veneer, civility puts a slight distance between the veneered object and the outside world, when proximity is quite often preferable to distance. Take the example of somebody invited to an event but unable to attend. In an attempt at being civil, many people will create an excuse for not being able to come, or, worse, apologise, when both choices betray a lack of respect. An honest explanation of your decision not to attend shows that you are open, have nothing to hide and respect the host’s ability and right to hear the truth – a firm foundation for a strong relationship.
So strong relationships need just the right balance of honesty and civility. At Cadence we are proud of the balance we manage to strike between the two. We try to be both a good butler and a critical friend to the people we work with, and this approach has helped us maintain some very long and fruitful relationships over the years. In business, as in life, you don’t get far without working together. If you feel the same way, and you think your company’s communications could do with some fresh input, then give us a ring on 020 7043 8847 for an honest (and civil) chat about what we can achieve together.