DCCD Tips for Civil Discourse

1.Set Guidelines. Agree to operate under a certain set of basic rules to keep the space safe and fair. It could be as simple as agreeing to follow these tips!

2. Practice humility. Be aware of your biases, privileges, and assumptions. Think about how your gender, race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, education, family, social networks, and life experiences may have influenced your perspective.

3.Start from a position of knowledge. Presenting an argument based on evidence requires using reliable resources to look up the facts. Many arguments rely on appeals to emotion rather than evidence.

4.Listen to understand. This means that while someone is speaking they have your undivided attention. When something is unclear wait until the person is done speaking and then ask for clarification. For example you can ask “What did you mean by…?” or “What I am hearing you say is… did I get that right?”

5.Communicate to be understood. Speak clearly and honestly from your own point of view. Be cognizant of what is obvious to you that may actually require further explanation.

6.Check the emotions. Sometimes dialogue about controversial topics can ignite powerful emotions. These emotions can provide us with helpful information, however when they become very heightened, it may make it difficult to listen to the other person and to respond effectively. You may even find yourself getting defensive. If this happens, it can be beneficial to check in with your emotional state and take a deep breath. Be aware of your emotions and separate your strong feelings from the discussion at hand. If necessary, excuse yourself momentarily. During discussion, you can signal that your feelings have been hurt without interrupting. Notice your emotions without allowing them to cloud your judgement, keeping tip #2 in mind.

7.Keep it kind. Speak and act in a manner that works toward trust building and keeps your integrity in tact. Personal insults, social generalizations, and defamatory language will result in hard feelings and could jeopardize any possibility of progress. If you say something inappropriate offer an immediate apology. When you feel personally attacked, refer to tips #4 and #6.

8.Take a break. When the conversation seems to be going in circles or has reached a stalemate, it may be time to take a break. This time may be used to refresh your mind or to research a new idea to bring back to the discussion.

9.Know when it’s time to agree to disagree. Sometimes we just absolutely do not agree and we need to acknowledge that we each hold different truths. This means: I have worked hard to find common ground; I have listened and communicated well and we still do not agree. Agreeing to disagree is a civil, respectful, and honest way to acknowledge your disagreements and invites the potential for picking up the discussion at a later date. When a settlement must be made it may be helpful to seek a neutral third-party member, like a mediator, or choose another agreed upon decision making method.

Created by DCCD Managing Director Ariana Mentzel with the help of Dr. Alyssa Segal, & https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-andstrategies/can-we-talk-tips-for-respectful-conversations-inschools, and https://theaardvarkdig.com/2017/04/23/10-easysteps-to-engaging-in-civil-discourse/.