According to Dr. P.M. Forni, everyone can improve the quality of their relationships and lives by choosing to be more considerate, courteous and polite.
For the past decade, Dr. Forni—a professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct and The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude—has been on a mission to promote gracious behavior. "The quality of our lives is about treating each other well in every situation. We are all the trustees of one another's happiness and well-being in life," he says.
Dr. Forni says modern society is structured in a way that actually amplifies and encourages incivility. "We are stressed, we are fatigued and we are in an anonymous environment. Stress and anonymity are two very, very common causes of rudeness," he says. "Especially when they are together, like in traffic."
In Choosing Civility, Dr. Forni uses a quote from motivational speaker Peggy Tabor Millin—"We never touch people so lightly that we do not leave a trace"—to illustrate the idea of "respectful persons."
"The principle of respectful persons is the principle upon which all ethical systems have been based from the beginning of humanity, since certainly the last 2,000 years," he says. "[The principle] says that we ought to treat others as ends in themselves rather than as beings for the satisfaction of our own immediate needs and desires."