How to have civil conversations about controversial topics

If you turn on the news, or check social media, it seems that all you see is debating and arguing.

While there is a plethora of disagreement over controversial topics, there seems to be little meaningful discussion.

Which begs the question, whatever happened to civil discourse?

Civil discourse is defined as an engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding.

It also seems to have temporarily disappeared from our society.

We can all, however, get back on the path to civil discourse by following a few simple steps:

First and foremost, we must approach these interactions with emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.  The key is to take the emotion away from the interaction, and not the significance or importance of the issue.

Second, we must look inside and be aware of own assumptions and biases, which form the basis of our current beliefs, and how they differ from the person we’re speaking with.

Third, we have to be willing to listen.  Meaningful dialogue cannot occur without it. Listening gives us a chance to truly understand why a person feels a certain way, or as Stephen Covey would say, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”  Unfortunately, there is a tendency to tune out, disregard, and argue with anyone who has an opinion different than our own.

Fourth, we have to do our homework.  In the new era of fake or false news, there has been an abundance of stories shared on social media that simply aren’t true.  Unfortunately, for some, there is tendency to believe what they read without any fact checking.  Finding reputable unbiased sources for information is required (although this  becoming harder to do with views that go too far left or right).

Fifth, after we have listened to others who have viewpoints different than our own, we must exercise discernment.  Discernment is the ability to judge well, and is based on educating ourselves and forming viewpoints based on facts and understanding, and no on opinions or unverified information.

Sixth, after we have followed all of the above steps, we must learn to present ourselves respectfully, even if we decide to agree to disagree with someone and their viewpoints.

Finally, while we may have the right to free speech, we must understand that our words are not free of consequences.

As a result, we should be judicious and respectful with our words, and do our part to bring civil discourse back to these important discussions.





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