Q & A with Prof. Forni re CivilityIf you are interested in learning more about the Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, headed by Italian professor P. M. Forni (the subject of a previous post), you can read an interview with Prof. Forni posted at the Hopkins website.
One item that particularly interested me was interviewer Amy Landay's opening question: "What led you to civility studies?" Prof. Forni's responds:
I was teaching my Dante's Divine Comedy course to my students one day, here on the Homewood campus, and I looked at them and a thought occurred to me that had never occurred to me before. The thought was, I want my students to know everything that there is to know about Dante, but even if they did and then they went out to be unkind to a little old lady on a bus, I would think that I had failed as a teacher. It was an odd thought, and it stayed with me. And it made me think, What if kindness is as important as art? What if kindness is more important than art, for that matter? I eventually felt comfortable pursuing work on civility not only as a researcher but as an advocate.I myself put great store by graciousness, so I couldn't help but latch onto Prof. Forni's insights and advice. For instance, when asked why it's important to confront someone who is treating you rudely, Prof. Forni makes the case this way:
We teach others how to treat us by how much we are willing to endure from them. It is better not to endure even micro-indignities if they are really bothering you. Find the strength of character to confront that person in an assertive, nonaggressive way and say, "This is what I feel. This is how I feel when you say that, when you do that. I really wish you didn't." If you keep everything bottled inside, that person will do it again. And again. And again. And some day you explode. And at that point, the other person will say, "What is this? You never told me that this bothered you so much. How was I supposed to know?" So now you are doubly at fault, first because you've exploded, and then because you didn't say what you felt when you were the victim of that behavior.Prof. Forni's second book on civility The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude is due out in June of next year.