Posted by: Anne | December 5, 2015

a gift for all seasons: civility

Civil conversation is hard.

Whenever people in a multifaceted, multicultural civilization try to have a civil discussion, things can get complicated very quickly. Our past experiences, our societal conditioning, our moral assumptions can place us in very different worlds when it comes to communicating.

Civility is hard. These days, some people think it hardly matters. But it does.

As a pastor, I have done my share of marriage counseling, family counseling, congregational conflict counseling. Two things are particularly important when I help people find a peaceful way through painful differences: one is honesty and the other is respect.

Honesty does not mean saying whatever we think and feel and believe in a disrespectful manner. Respect does not mean hiding the truth of what we think or feel or believe just because we may offend. In a civil conversation, we say what we think with words that invite ongoing discussion and we respect the humanity of the other person enough to hear them out no matter how much we may disagree with what they say. (I repeat: we respect the *humanity* of the person even when we disagree with their words and ideas.)

* Neither side may trivialize or dismiss the concerns of the other.

* Neither side should define the other according to one single characteristic or identity marker.

* Both sides should aim to help each other understand their own experience and perspective using a type of speech that can be heard by the other.

* Both sides should accept the fundamental ground rule of life in a free society: the essence of liberty is the right to be different and to act wrongly in the eyes of others.

When I think I am in danger in some way—my reputation, my ideas, my “truth,” my deeply held beliefs—then I am tempted to respond to another with defensiveness and attack. But whenever I step back and consider that the other person is struggling with their own fears—even if from a very different perspective than mine—then I am more inclined to work from the “honesty-respect” paradigm. Whenever I consider the very real possibility that I could be wrong (or at least partly wrong and only partly right) then I am more able to give others the liberty to be different and to act wrongly in my eyes.

Some people won’t care; they are in this to “win” by using speech as a weapon that destroys its opponents (as Dr. Brownstein points out.)

But lots of us *do* care; we want to find ways to employ honest, respectful civil dialogue as a tool for breaking down walls and building bridges. We who share this commitment are the ones who carry the greater responsibility to model civility and to persevere in actually acting like civilized people.

Read the full article at the source:
charlottevaughancoyle.com/2015/04/how-to-talk-to-those-people/

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Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing Anne. Peace…


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