Being Teachable is a Most
Important Part of Civility

Young and Old Together

Civility is not only a public virtue, but a personal virtue as well. Being teachable is part of civility because it is the lifelong learners who most easily grow and change along with society.

Philosopher Michael J. Meyer urges us not to take civility for granted. It is necessary for society's flourishing, and the civility of etiquette is roughly a chief component of civilized societies.

Lessons in Civility

When I taught high school Civics years ago, the semester ended with students choosing and designing projects that demonstrated how people in our community were working together towards respect and tolerance for many points of view on key issues of the day. More than one student discussed ways in which being a learner would need to be central to living and working with others. 

Our attitudes of personal responsibility in learning, observing, attending, and asking when help is needed are what it means to be teachable. When you are teachable, you acknowledge your limitations and areas of needed improvement. You engage curiosity to bring on solutions that enhance the overarching quest for civility in your world and in society.

The Teachability Quotient

Though we can fall short in the calling to be our best teachable selves, the learner in us humbly moves forward to re-learn how to be courteous, kind, and polite in all our conversations.

On any given day our teachability quotient might be lower than on other days, and in these moments, it might feel okay to snap out an uncivil, unkind remark. It’s so strange how that happens when we least suspect that it will.

There are times when we get so settled into our environment and daily routines that we fail to notice we’re in a rut of careless communication. When the teachability quotient is low,  persons can blame others for their own culpability.

Promoting civility and claiming teachability:

  • Pause often and observe people around you.
  • Make a practice every day of noticing some positive things in your public world.
  • Keep in mind that what you focus on expands.
  • Look for instances of people respecting others.
  • Withhold negative comments that add no value.
  • Reach out professionally and socially to check in on others.
  • Ask yourself, “What can I learn from what I am seeing? Is there some way that I can add value?”
  • Research and educate yourself and consider other perspectives.
  • Always employ “the pause”.
  • Breathe. Take the high road.

Opening the mind and heart to other perspectives is the goal. Being teachable is a part of civility because without an open mind, tolerance and acceptance of other people dwindles.

Civility relies upon our acceptance of others in our community and our world. It does not call upon us to agree with everyone, but to listen, accept differences, and remain respectful. You never know what you can learn from someone when you give purposeful open-mindedness a try.  

“Keep the corners of your mouth turned up. Speak in a low, persuasive tone. Listen; be teachable. Laugh at good stories and learn to tell them. For as long as you are green, you can grow.”
~ Mother Teresa

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