Monthly Archives: June 2015

Let’s be Civil

My hope in starting this blog, is to share ideas in the areas of civil discourse and a more rational approach to discussing and working through issues. Let me say, I make no claim to be an expert. I intend to share my opinions (distinguishable from edicts and maxims) and hope to solicit other perspectives. Thus the name of the site / blog — the plural was meant to include varying perspectives from multiple sources. From multiple perspectives we can generate new or refined approaches – or at a minimum, additional insights. I hope to spur dialogs – and even dialogs about having rational dialogs.  I expect the blog/site to morph  and grow over time, and to include various topics.

Some Initial Thoughts

I think the notion of civil discourse is fading from our society. A number of the hallmarks of civil discourse seem to be missing from a lot of our exchanges. I intend to do posts on various facets, posing some ideas and alternatives for consideration. I will highlight a couple thoughts here — just to get started.

Topping the list is being civil (or not). It seems we are more prone now, than in the past, to get off-topic and into attack mode. And we do so all too quickly.  There is an awful lot of name calling, blaming, and elevated emotions in place of connecting with the humanity in the other(s) and/or actually solving a problem.

A close second is a missing willingness to “agree to disagree.” In my opinion, and I do not think I am alone, polarization is growing. Not just in politics, but in people’s individual positions and approaches. I see an awful lot of win-or-lose thinking taking place. “Conclusion” of an argument, a civil one, used to mean: 1) coming to an agreement, which may include compromise; 2) agreeing to disagree, or 3) deferring with a commitment to reconvene in order to get to 1 or 2. Option 2 bespeaks tolerance, and a lack of it denotes the opposite. Perhaps tolerance is too uncomfortable.

Third, and core to all of this, is a diminished rationality in our approach. We are absolutely entitled to our feelings. We are emotional creatures. Along with that, we possess the ability to pause and organize our thoughts, then respond, instead of simply reacting. Some may disagree – saying reactions are “only natural” and indeed reacting is natural and common. Charged reactions increase the likelihood of a counter-reaction – and a spiraling escalation that is not productive. We can overcome the knee-jerk reactivity with mindfulness and practice.  In doing so, we can improve the odds of a successful exchange and reaching a conclusion  — as defined above.

I think that is a fair start.

More in my next post.




A Few Guideposts

Below are a number of core principles I’d like to suggest and hope to adhere to. It is by no means all inclusive. I will very likely adjust it over time.

  • Civil discourse – Focus on the topic (not the participants). Work toward understanding, and where applicable, solving a problem.
  • Rational dialog – Attempt to use reason and logic to make and support points.
  • Responding over Reacting – We have the ability to pause and ponder before responding.
  • Facts over fervor – Hopefully, making an effort to support an idea with something more than passion for a point of view. Supplying data and/or references lends credence to an argument.
  • Substance over style – A position well crafted may be less valid than a point poorly delivered. Yet, a point well delivered is not automatically suspect. Emphasis on discernment.
  • Definition over defense – Bracketing folks who spend time attacking others and defending their current position without actually defining what their own position is.
  • Avoid piling on – Throwing in other content, usually hinders work toward a current topic. Try to stick to the subject at hand and agree to park tangents for a subsequent dialog.
  • Confrontation does not equal condemnation – Tough-on-the-issue and soft-on-the-person is valid and reasonable. The opposite is counterproductive. People would be well served to learn the difference and practice it.
  • Try to consider the other’s perspective – Sometimes tough. Doubly beneficial in that it can “humanize” your opponent, and it expands your perspective – even if you disagree.
  • Shades of gray – Situations and issues are not often binary, clear-cut, or black-and-white. Expect shades of gray. Don’t just expect it – embrace it.

Common to all of these, is a need for effort, on our own part, to exercise more than our reflexes.