Charm Offensive: Cultivating Civility in 21st Century Britain

Publication Type: Publication

Authors: Carmel O'Sullivan, Phoebe Griffith , Rushanara Ali, Will Norman

Civility can seem like an old fashioned concept and the British public tends to think we are on a spiral of decline when it comes to everyday politeness.

This report, co-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council, finds that far from a thing of the past, civility is something that people still care deeply about wherever they live, but it warns that long-term trends are making civility hard to maintain. It brings together what is known about civility from a range of disciplines and the findings of new empirical research undertaken in very different areas.

It argues that civility is the largely invisible ‘glue’ that holds communities together and that experiences of incivility cause hurt,stress and deeper social problems, and has a bigger impact of people’s sense of social health than crime statistics. Perhaps most significantly it shows that civility operates on a reciprocal basis and that it is‘contagious’. Yet people, while quick to see incivility in others, seem far less aware of how their own behaviour can offend.

While the report suggests changes in emphasis in national and local policy, including a better balance between punitive measures and those which actively encourage civility, it concludes that we are all best placed to spread civility through being aware of how we conduct our daily lives.

Download a full pdf of the publication.