AB Thinks  →  16th November 2022

Civility: the crux of effective communication

Do you have a colleague whose opinions really grind your gears? Ever been treated unfairly by a grumpy boss but didn’t know how to speak up? Or maybe you’ve made a mistake – mispronounced somebody’s name or misinterpreted something of cultural significance – and you’re not sure how to rectify it?

These things happen every day in the workplace. After all, we’re just people. But couple our very human reactions with an increasingly polemic society and the art of civility can sometimes be lost – with potentially large consequences for the workplace.

For Shelby Scarbrough, guest on the 70th episode of The Internal Comms Podcast, civility goes beyond “a form of speech or action that is polite and courteous.” Practising civility means upholding the values of honour, respect, trust, courtesy, dignity, and humility in every conversation you have.

Author of Civility Rules! Creating a Purposeful Practice of Civility, Shelby says that reaching across the aisle, into other people’s culture and/or experience, is a wonderful way to open your mind and create an environment that’s comfortable for all.

It’s an essential practice for communicators, who are most effective when trusted and are most trustworthy when practising civility.

So, how can communicators practise civility with purpose?

Well, doing your homework is essential. Have a working understanding of the behaviours, traditions and expectations of your audience (whoever that may be) and be open to learn more through your interactions.

Give people the chance to clarify. And instead of mandating how something ‘should’ be done, share an example of how you, your team, or someone else might do things.

Don’t shy away from differences of opinion – but keep things civil. After all, constructive, healthy debate is essential to moving our organisations forward.

And ask open questions that create emotional bonds. Rather than ‘How was your day?’, try ‘Tell me something you learned today. Drop ‘What do you do?’ for ‘Tell me something you’re passionate about.’

Listen to the full conversation on The Internal Comms Podcast here.