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The 3 C’s of Civility

Published on
18 October 2019
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When I was asked to do a talk on the Civility Saves Lives project a couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to do some more research on the wider topic of civility: what it is, and how it can be useful in not just a healthcare setting but in a wider team setting. And one of the things that came to mind was just how the “Civility Saves Lives” concept is actually just common sense.

Now, the problem is, as we all know, that “common sense” is not actually that common, and in my opinion, manners and civility are things that are suffering due to a lack of social interaction in modern society.

So where do the 3 C’s of civility come in? Well, when I was doing my research and preparations, I decided there needed to be a way of reminding people that civility isn’t just a one-off thing.

The 3 C’s

  • Conscious

  • Continuous

  • Consistent

So what does this all mean?


We must be aware of the impact of our thoughts/actions/words/intentions on others around us. We also need to be conscious of the fact that a lot of our communication is done unconsciously and therefore awareness is not always quite so easy to achieve or do.


We need to have a continuous acknowledgment of our responsibility to ease the experience of others (e.g. through kindness, respect, non judgement). We must realise that civility is a continuous thing and not something that should be a one-off. We must remember to be civil to not just new team members, but ones who we have worked with for many years. It is our responsibility to keep this civility going.


We must always make the effort to adopt and exhibit civil behaviour as a non-negotiable point of our character. In other words, we must make sure that civility is at the forefront of our thoughts when we examine our behaviours and characteristics.

As everyone may have a different understanding of what civility actually is, the 3 C’s allow us to make sure that at least civility is always at the forefront of how we act and communicate as a team and individuals.

I truly believe that civility plays a fundamental role in how teams perform in high pressure and risk environments, and allows us to work as a team without the worry of rudeness; therefore creating the environment to exchange ideas/thoughts or to ask questions of each other.

This is best highlighted in the world of offshore sailing, where teams cannot escape each other or get off the boat: we must always have civility in order for us to create the environment for each person to flourish and trust each other to keep everyone safe.

If we do not have the 3 C’s in our mindset, then the cramped and often uncomfortable environment we find ourselves in on boats can create a toxic or “threatening” environment, and the team breaks apart. In a situation of survival, we will need every team member to work together to keep each other alive.