AUBURN — Self-awareness is the key to practicing civility.

That was the message from Senior College at USM Lewiston-Auburn College instructor Dr. Charles Plummer, who gave a talk on civility Tuesday at the Auburn Public Library.

Plummer’s talk, “Self-awareness as a Key Attribute in the Practice of Civility,” was initiated by his observation that there is little information in the way of how one can practice civility.

Today’s society, especially the political scene, is lacking in this quality and its most key component, self-awareness, and a person does not have to look any farther than the daily newspaper to back up that observation, Plummer said. Police logs and court cases and all the negative ads political campaigns use to sway constituents seem to feed into the incivilities we encounter daily, he added.

Dr. Charles Plummer of Senior College at USM Lewiston-Auburn College gives a talk Tuesday about self-awareness and civility at the Auburn Public Library. Joe Charpentier/Sun Journal

The Jan. 6 insurrection and the recent attack on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul are prime examples, Plummer said.

“Peace and harmony have fallen by the wayside. … I’m sorry to say that I’m not an optimist, that things will not change in the near future until the practice of civility becomes a cultural norm,” he said.


According to Plummer, practicing self-awareness means a person needs to be aware of their preferred learning and personality styles, the personal characteristics associated with each and to develop the ability to recognize them in others. Benefits include reinforcing resilience, improving learning ability and priming our responses to the outside world.

“Self-awareness is the demonstration of one’s ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts and values — along with the ability to accurately assess one’s own strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism and growth mindset — along with knowing one’s internal state, preferences, resources and intuition,” Plummer said.

Emotions provide information about our experiences and teach us how to react, Plummer said. That means there are no good or bad emotions, just positive or negative ones. The only way an emotion can be good or bad is how a person expresses that feeling, and that expression determines consequences. Studies carried out by neurologists, physiologists, cognitive scientists, anthropologists, economists and psychologists have attempted to identify the kind of understanding one must possess to interact civilly — in other words, human behavior, he said.

“I would add that the term human behavior covers the physical, mental and social activity of an individual or a group classified as common, usual, acceptable to (the) outside,” Plummer added. “… Being self-aware also requires that you are both realistic and optimistic and develop self-confidence that comes from knowing where your strengths are as well as knowing what weaknesses you have that could improve.”

Plummer said there are six practical ways to develop a deeper understanding of oneself: seek out new experiences, ask for feedback, identify what triggers angry responses or outbursts, question your opinions and beliefs, develop an understanding about your core values and keep a journal tracking the good and bad experiences in your life so you can hold yourself accountable to your actions.

“(People) need a positive self-image, positive feelings of self-worth. … Dignity,” said Plummer. “Dignity is defined as a state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect … and one (gains) respect by practicing civility.”

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