Civil Discussion Counters Fear, Distrust, and Certainty

Incivility doesn’t cure itself.  Indeed, there’s good reason to think that it will only get worse if we do nothing to combat it.  But what can we do about it?  How do we counter incivility’s root causes: fear, distrust, and certainty?  —There’s really only one way: through the practice of civil discussion itself.  Practice in this case may not make perfect, but it it’s the most reliable way we have of strengthening civility both in ourselves and others.

practice photo

Civil discussion—discussion that is truly respectful, constructive, open, and fair—lessens fear, engenders respect, and promotes openness to other perspectives.  Any civil discussion worthy of the name will not be frightening, but rather gratifying and sometimes positively enjoyable besides.  Civil discussion depends upon respect, yes, but also deepens it, as participants recognize what they are gaining from each other.  And civil discussion is a lively reminder that there’s a difference between commitment and certainty.

But why would anyone who’s fearful, distrustful, or convinced of the rightness of their views get involved in civil discussion in the first place?  —Because they trusted the process and because they trusted those responsible for organizing and conducting it.  We believe that citizens will trust a discussion process that’s “respectful”, “constructive”, and “open and fair”.  And we believe that they will trust us because our vision and mission commit us to those civic values and, as I’ll explain in a future blog, because we honor those same values in USATalk’s work and governance.

Comments are closed.