The Three Pillars of Universal Safety and Civility


When you see incivility, one of these three pillars of universal safety is missing. These labels are positive and gentler than the names of verbal and emotional violence, so start here anytime you can. These pillars follow the first three steps of the 3 A’s (the AAA-ENDS method), and they follow heart, mind, path, the three elements of the Switch change model by Chip and Dan Heath.


Mutual Empathy

Understanding and validating feelings, good intentions, and roles, whether or not we agree.

Mutual Respect

Treating ideas, wants, and needs as meaningful, valuable, and important.

Mutual Purpose

Finding common ground to move forward together, even in small ways.


Use These When You Have a Relationship (Actual or Implied)

Use these labels to Name incivility when you have a relationship with someone (work, home, friends) or social convention already encourages restraint. The closer the relationship and the more familiar they are with these pillars, the gentler you can be. In anonymous online settings, the stronger labels are probably more appropriate.

Sounds like we’re forgetting mutual respect.
I think we need mutual empathy here.
That sounded disrespectful. I’m sure that wasn’t your intent.

Because these labels are positive, they can be used to in the Ask step of the 3 A’s (the AAA-ENDS method) and not just when naming hostility.

I’m not feeling empathy. Can we go there for just a moment?
Can we find a mutual purpose together?
Can we restart this conversation and focus on empathy, respect, and purpose?