Two girls sitting on the ground talking

Democracy cannot flourish without civility, a.k.a. good manners. Such simple behaviors as saying “please” and “thank you” signal our respect for other people. Manners are important for any gathering when people are sharing views and trying to make decisions, including social media, where it’s far too easy to forget our manners or civility as our emotions and righteousness take over. In fact, since fall 2017 in “democracy conversations” that we and our partners have held, we’ve heard over and over how social media contributes to the growing divisions and incivility in our society.

While this practice is taken from a guide geared to children, it’s important for all of us to remember the example we set for young and old alike as we move through our lives, online and off. Brainstorm with children (or children at heart) some things they could do that would signal that they are considerate of their family, friends, schoolmates, and even strangers. Talk together about what is not respectful in exchanges they might see in television interviews, viral videos full of name-calling, or negative comments on social media. Then make a list of “good manners” you would like to adopt. For example: making eye contact when talking, apologizing when necessary, writing thank you notes, silencing a cell phone during mealtime or other conversations, or helping others with the chores.

This practice is adapted from The Practicing Democracy Project’s free, downloadable “Practicing Democracy with Children” guide. Visit our partner, Spirituality & Practice's The Practicing Democracy Project for more practices and a wide array of resources.


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