Good Manners and the Sane Life
P.M. Forni hopes his new book, Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct (St. Martin's Press, March 2002), will help readers rediscover the basic skills needed to show respect for the people in their lives.
With a mass-market audience in mind, Forni compares Choosing Civility to the person who ran along next to you while you learned to ride a bicycle -- an invisible, steadying hand to help readers "exercise these skills until they become second nature."
"In order to live a sane and serene life, we need good relationships. We need a network of social support," says Forni, a professor of Italian literature at The Johns Hopkins University and co- founder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project. "In order to gain and maintain social support, we need social skills. The rules of civility and manners give us the social skills that allow us to live well among others."
Forni (pictured at left) will be signing copies of the book at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, in the Johns Hopkins University Bookcenter, in the basement of Gilman Hall on the Homewood campus, 3400 N. Charles Street. Another signing is scheduled at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, in the Barnes & Noble Booksellers at 1 E. Joppa Road in Towson, Md.
Piqued in the 1990s by Americans' renewed interest in civility, Forni, a Towson resident, has devoted several years to the academic study of thoughtful behavior. Forni was co-director of an international symposium, "Reassessing Civility: Forms and Values at the End of the Century," at Johns Hopkins in March 1998. He has served as an expert source for many news outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp.
The $20, 196-page hardbound book includes a list of 25 rules to give readers some direction. The rules are basic, common-sense suggestions that encourage readers to brush up on some of life's simple courtesies.
Take Rule No. 4: Listen.
"To listen to one another is one of the first duties that we owe to the people who are around us. When we listen, it means that we are paying attention," Forni says. "It's impossible to be considerate without paying attention."
And then there is Rule No. 6: Speak Kindly.
"We are uncivil when we forget the fragility of others, when we forget that the people with whom we are interacting are flesh and blood people who are easy to bruise, just the way we are," Forni says.
All the other 24 rules aside, Forni says it's important not to lose sight of your own feelings, also known as Rule No. 17: Assert Yourself.
"I certainly didn't want to give the impression that being civil means being extremely meek and self-effacing," Forni says. "Expressing yourself, expressing your feelings, is part of the mental and emotional tool kit of the civil person."
To speak with P.M. Forni, contact Amy Cowles at 410- 516-7800. Forni's Web site is www.jhu.edu/civility/.
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