LEAP FROG In This Age of Incivility: Part 6

We live in an age of incivility.

Name calling, blaming, finger-pointing, anger and fear running unchecked … it’s been a miserable few months. Too many of my friends are complaining about the  Facebook Friends they’ve Unfriended since the election.

Shall we use that as a measure of our discontent?

Fear no more. LEAP FROG is here. (Need to start at the beginning? Click here for Civil Discourse in the New Age)


Last week we began the FROG part with F (forget the facts). Today, we’re moving to R.

R is for Respect

My first inclination was to use George Lakoff’s use of the word “Frame,” with an R is for Reframe post. I even had it mostly written.

George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist at UC Berkeley,  took the verb to frame from photography and art and applied it to conversations (the field of cognitive linguistics, to be more precise). For him, “framing” — and “reframing” — is a method to assure that what we say will be heard. To do this we must understand the other’s point of view. It starts with Listening effectively.  Of course it does; what doesn’t!

But Lakoff’s emphasis on “facts” tended to take us away from the direction we were heading after last week’s F = forget the facts.  So, I changed the R in FROG to Respect, like in the Aretha Franklin song.

Go on; listen to it. It’s only 2 minutes long.


Respect! You holler. How can I respect this jerk who just spouted the most absurd idea yet! Give me a break! 

I know. It’s not easy. But remember back to our first post in this series. The purpose of civil discourse begins with Cicero and his notion of a civil society. So, I’m thinking of respect for the conversation itself. Respect for the ideal of reviving, maintaining, or even creating the civil society.

Show respect for the conversation with these DOs.

  • Remember the difference between being civil and being polite. Civility counts; politeness doesn’t.
  • Let go of your need to be right.  It’s not going to get you ANYWHERE.
  • Realize this conversation is not a zero-sum game (there are no winners or losers).  You want to come out of it together, both better informed, ready and able to work together toward the common good.
  • Seek to identify common values: achievement, status, recognition, power, money, family, health, adventure, risk, change, serenity, security, self-reliance, freedom, liberty, love, faith. Others?
  • Speak from an “I” place. And know why this is important.
  • Stay positive (refrain from using don’t, won’t, can’t, shouldn’t, never, ...)
  • Understand how the opposing point of view impacts or threatens you. Be as specific as possible. This is easier for some groups than others. Straight, white, wealthy men may need to think about this a bit longer.
  • Watch your body language, tone of voice, and how you phrase things.
    • I want to listen to your POV, but I can’t do it when you are yelling at me.
    • I understand your POV, but I see it differently.
  • Ask open ended questions:
    • What do you think about ___?
    • What leads you to that conclusion?
    • What would you like to accomplish?
    • What is the most important thing to you?
    • What do you suggest ___
  • Refrain from using “thwarting ploys” and, if the Other uses them, name them immediately.
[learn_more caption=”What are thwarting ploys? “] Thwarting ploys are ways, sometimes unconscious, in which a difficult conversation or topic can be, simply, thwarted: diversions, deflections, digressions. We’re all familiar with them I’m sure.

A few examples:
stonewalling, lying, threatening, shouting, crying, silence, sarcasm, taking offense, accusations, pointing a finger.

The simplest way to disarm them is by naming them.
*It feels like you are changing the subject.
*Are you threatening me?
*I simply don’t believe you. I’d like to check out the veracity of your last statement before we continue. Shall we meet again in a week?
*I really dislike sarcasm; it doesn’t serve our purpose here and it feels insincere. Could you rephrase?
*I see this has you very upset. I don’t want to lose site of what we were talking about though. Shall we just wait a few minutes or would you like to reschedule?[/learn_more]


How about you? What’s your biggest challenge in finding and showing RESPECT in this age of incivility?  Or, venture another guess at the O and the G?  How does this relate to my theme of cultural differences? Who knows, you may convince me to make another last minute change.  

Click here for LEAP FROG, Part 8, the O

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20 Responses

  1. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Thank you for your helpful tips, Janet. I think it is very important to try to remain civil with people we encounter and to try to maintain a civil society in general.
    (That said, if I ever met our current president, I would be civil, but I do not respect him. There have been other presidents that I haven’t like and disagreed with, but I always respected them as president.)

    No idea right now what the O and G stand for, but I’ve come up with some funny possibilities. 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh please, Merril, do tell. Especially if they’ll make us smile. And don’t forget the difference between civility and politeness. 🙂

      • Merril Smith
        | Reply

        O: Oy! Ogle, order, organize. Can one orgasmitize? Or more seriously “own.”
        R: Require, rumble, resonate, reverberate, renovate, redecorate . . .
        Obviously, I’m just being silly, but you asked, and you know I love words. 🙂

        • Sharon Lippincott
          | Reply

          G: gape, grieve, grouse, get (it, them, along?), go along, give (in, up, out?) glow, glower, gloss over, glance … ?

  2. Sharon Lippincott
    | Reply

    Oddly enough, though I am not consciously self-selecting people to hang out with, I’m not finding people, online or elsewhere, that I disagree with in political terms. I know they’re out there. I do live in TEXAS (though Austin appears to be an island of liberalism in the rest of the state).

    Aside from politics, my most recent challenge in showing respect took place within the framework of conversations with the patient advocate and director of nursing of a local hospital. They dropped three balls during the short time I was being treated there, and they needed to know. Fortunately my overall experience with them was four-star positive, and they are dedicated to excellence, so I did not find it difficult to adopt a “let’s work together to fix this” point of view.

    I like your term “Respect,” and I’m convinced we can respect people as well as the process. Deep inside, we’re all trying to make sense of the world and arrange it to best fit our understanding. If nothing else, we can respect that intention, even if we don’t like the way it plays out for someone else. In the hospital case, I respect that they are trying, that they applied for and received a Malcolm Balderidge Award for excellence. Conversely, in each conversation I’ve had, I’ve felt respected and heard, that they are genuinely concerned, and that our mutual efforts will pay off. It doesn’t get much better than that.

    I think the key to the success of onversations across gaps is remaining focused on what matters to us both, i.e. keeping patients safe and comfortable, rather than becoming confrontational and blaming. How can we extract that and apply it to conversations between simple citizens with divergent points of view and little power beyond the ballot box? How do we find what does matter to each of us in these situations?

    One of the most important things I’ve learned from hanging around with lifestory writers for twenty years is that the more we know about each other’s stories, the more compassion, empathy and acceptance we feel. So (I’m thinking with my fingers here right now), the more we can be transparent about personal STORIES, how things affect us, the more likely we are to hear matching stories from the other POV. Looking back, this seems to reflect your emphasis on coming from an *I* POV.

    Perhaps the biggest challenge in most typical conversations is thinking fast on our feet. So often someone says something that triggers our amygdalas, sending us into an instant emotional hijacking state. They may do this on purpose, or with no awareness at all. I’ve been in situations where I knew I was in hijack mode, and rational thought was outside the bars. Ugh! Learn from these situations and let them go.

    This thought, this hunch, is too long to develop within the framework of a comment. I shall chew upon it for awhile, then maybe write a post of my own on this topic of bridging gaps with STORY. Thank you for the prompt! And thanks for including that drop-down defining thwarting ploys.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      So much here to chew on, Sharon. Thanks. I too love the thwarting ploy idea. Unfortunately, my hard returns don’t seem to take hold inside those pull down windows. Arrggghh

  3. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Sharon offered a bunch of “Gs.” I’ll offer one “O,” openmindedness.

    I’ve heard that the mark of an educated person is the ability to entertain two opposing ideas at the same time . . . and I would add “without going berserk.”

    P. S. My view: Reality shows, to me an obnoxious part of pop culture, have opened the door wider to incivility.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I have had the same reaction to “Reality” shows as you, Marian. Have only seen one episode of survivor (we had a guest who insisted) but have heard about the others. This “winner take all” and “anything goes” mentality they push are troubling to me.

      I heard the two ideas at the same time adage was the mark of the mature mind. Fear does much though to narrow ones focus.

      Thanks for swinging through.

  4. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet, Second to “flow,” R-E-S-P-E-C-T is the second HUGEST deal to me; even more so than love. That may sound odd, but that’s the way of it for me.

    Wonderful post to be following—thank you!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you Laurie. That means a great deal to me. I’m wondering if you’ve ever blogged about your Love vs Respect idea. It’d be fascinating to read. If so, please post the link for us. If not, get cracking.

  5. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Thanks, Janet. Respect is indeed huge. So difficult, today, when many of those we’re engaging with seem to have adopted an ideology built upon the very notion of disrespect for all opposition. I know I personally find it next-to-impossible to not immediately get my hackles up when encountering the “lib-tard,” “femi-nazi” mindset. At the same time, respect isn’t limited to the “other.” It also applies to the self, I think. When we truly respect ourselves, we’re far less likely to take offense at others’ perceptions of our beliefs. And in a strange way, I believe it makes us more effective — more persuasive, as if our own self-respect, properly demonstrated, carries a certain weight or authority of its own. A working theory, anyway . . . 😉

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’m glad you brought up self-respect, Tim. That is, of course, essential. I too have found that the more secure I am in my own beliefs, the more curious I am about others that are different. In an earlier draft of this I had three Respect sections: Self, the other, and the conversation (stolen from someone along the reading-everything-I could-find-on-this-subject). That just seemed too cumbersome. But having self respect is critical. Thanks for weighing in.

  6. Joan Z. Rough
    | Reply

    This past week when a repairman came to fix my washer, we had a wonderful, hilarious conversation about politics and who we voted for. There was lots of respect from both of us and I felt that even though he had voted for Trump, we could be good friends. You don’t find many who aren’t afraid to converse about these things. And respect is foremost!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      What a ideal example of what we’ve been trying to get across. Your experience is just what I’m hoping to hear about more and more. Thanks so much, Joan.

  7. […] LEAP FROG (the FROG part) — my series on civil discourse — will return next week […]

  8. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    Respect is something that grows out of Listening, Attention, Perseverance (with things that may be hard to grasp first time round) and Faith (that the exchange will ultimately prove worthwhile and Result in you moving Onwards to a Goal.

    The willingness to listen and consider starts the process. Attention to the other party’s point of view fosters understanding (nut no necessarily agreement).
    Some POV’s are difficult to grasp, so perseverance is required .
    And the expectation of a worthwhile outcome from the exchange gives Facility to the process. Respect grows out of the fruits of these plants.
    An Overview can help you Get the meaning and value of the exchange.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Why, I do believe you’ve come up with a FROG of your own, Ian. Congratulations. I imagine there are many FROGs to be had. Good to keep this conversation going

  9. […] LEAP FROG In This Age of Incivility […]

  10. […] it that has brought even a smile to my face.  Well, maybe that cute laughing baby picture in the R is for Respect […]

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