Living our Core Values – Civility and Respect

Continuing our monthly series on living our core values, guest author Roger Dusing shares his thoughts on bringing CIVILITY and RESPECT into our daily lives.

Visit our archives to read the first post in the series – on ACCOUNTABILITY.


We treat all with CIVILITY and RESPECT while being open and honest in our communication.

When he was a young man, George Washington wrote out 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior. This was likely an exercise in penmanship and he was transcribing a list first written by Jesuits in 1595. Click here to read the full list. It is remarkable that over 400 years later, although the language has changed, civility and respect have not. Some rules are basic: don’t chew with your mouth open; if you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it quietly; and kill no vermin, fleas, lice, etc. in the presence of others. Who doesn’t try to exemplify those ideals every day?

Park University’s core values say; “We treat all with CIVILITY and RESPECT while being open and honest in our communication.” President Washington might have said; Treat everyone with respect (1); Do not embarrass others (3); When you speak, be concise (35); Do not argue with your superior, submit your ideas with humility (40); When a person tries their best and fails, do not criticize them (44); When you give advice or criticism, do so in private and with gentleness (45); Actions speak louder than words (48); Don’t believe everything that you hear (50); Allow reason to govern your actions (58); and, Do not give unasked-for advice (68). My favorites include; Don’t start what you can’t finish, keep your promises (82); Don’t talk behind people’s backs (89); and, Lead by example (59).

We can learn a lot from these 16th century Jesuits, and from George Washington, who strove to live by these rules. We are part of an organization that values discourse and creative thinking. We encourage challenges to the status quo. We expect to be held accountable and to be challenged for inappropriate behavior. However, all of those things must originate from an attitude of civility and respect. We must learn to listen first for understanding, and only when we understand the other person’s perspective offer our own thoughts. We must talk about ideas, not about the people who offer them. We must give deference to our decision makers, and once a decision is made, do our best to implement it, rather than chaff against it. We must show our respect for others by being on time, dressing appropriately, and being courteous. Civility and respect are incompatible with shouting, cursing, berating, belittling, harassing, or ignoring.

One last thought; civility and respect don’t flow from a position that others must go first. You can’t say I won’t be civil if I don’t think you are being civil. Washington’s list contains 110 things I must do to act in a civil and respectful fashion. This is a list of small sacrifices that I can make, for the good of the organization. Fast forward from 1595 to 1987 when Michael Jackson sang “I’m starting with the man in the mirror / I’m asking him to change his ways.” That is the path to civility and respect. Let’s all walk that path – together.

I hope you’ll continue with me on this road to living Park University’s Core Values when next month I’ll address EXCELLENCE.