We’re in our fifth week looking at Civil Discourse. To guide us on our journey, I concocted the hokey acronym LEAP FROG and here we are at Part 4: P is for Present (your ideas, finally!).
I was enormously gratified as I researched this series to find many others also concerned for the current state of civil discourse. And, as I’ve long held, there is little reason to reinvent a wheel that is already spinning quite well. On March 1, I posted those resources that I found most helpful in putting this series together and I’ll add four more before we’re done today.
It’s good to know we are not alone in believing that civil discourse, while perhaps ailing, is revivable.
The bones of the P part of LEAP FROG will come during FROG, starting in April. But until then, I want to talk about your role in escalating and deescalating the intensity of the conversation.
Escalators include using “you” statements (rather than “I” statements); lowering the eyebrows, which indicates judgment or unertainty; exchanging “a look” with a third party; or condescendingly patting the other.
De-escalators can be pausing, and acknowledging (naming; owning), which we talked about last week. And, of course, using “I” statements — your own reality can’t be argued with (so the theory goes), but when we use “You …” our listener tends to go into defense mode.
Want some practice? Here are two sites designed to do just that.
- At Hi From the Other Side (dot com), you’ll be matched with someone “from the other side.” Here’s how they introduce themselves on their website:
Since the election, many of us talked about getting out of our echo chambers to talk to someone who supported another candidate. Not to convince, but to understand. … Once we find a match, we’ll shoot you two an email introducing you for a one-on-one conversation.
When I signed up, they asked “What did you want to be when you grew up?” and offered a chance to add anything else I’d like to say. You can include your zip code so they can match you up with someone close to you, if you’d rather do a face to face meet. I chose not to give my zip code as I’m looking to do this via email first. And as of this writing, I’m waiting for my match.
2. Living Room Conversations (dot org) is “a simple way that anyone with an open mind can engage with their friends in a friendly yet meaningful conversation about topics we care about. These conversations increase understanding, reveal common ground and allow us to discuss possible solutions. No fancy event or skilled facilitator is needed.”
This site works a bit differently than Hi From the Other Side in that “two friends of different perspectives” begin by inviting two more friends and the six gather together to go over an agreed upon topic (listed on the website), following their list of suggested opening questions. Here’s the video from their website that explains it a bit more.
Here are two additional resources for you.
- Better-Angels (dot org) is “a bipartisan network of leaders and organizations whose vision is to reunite America. Our method is to improve our society’s approaches to conflict. We seek an America with less uninformed animosity between left and right, less separation of upscale America from the rest of America, and fewer good reasons for the governed to hold the governing in contempt. To work for these changes, we bring people together from across the divides to rethink currently polarized issues, show why reducing polarization is an urgent priority, conduct citizen education and leadership training, and recommend policy reforms that will permit progress and compromise to be substituted for impasse and frustration.”
Their name is taken from Abraham Lincoln, in 1861, who said:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory…will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Of course, it’s arguable whether those better angels ever emerged following the Civil War. But, we’ll leave that for a future post. It’s the intention that’s important here.
2. All Sides (dot com) offers media reports on a range of current topics, but always choosing three sources, “Left, Center, and Right.” It’s been somewhat fascinating to me to widen my reading, though I will admit I often find their categorization scheme challenging my biases.
How about you? How did you react to the idea of engaging in these sites? Can you name what might be holding you back? And, if you can think of any additional escalators or de-escalators, I hope you’ll share them with us in the Comments below.
I’ll say more about this PRESENTING phase in FROG when we talk about expressing yourself in a way that will be more readily heard. In the meantime, know that LEAP FROG works just as its name implies, because it happens over and over and over.
NEXT WEEK: Humor in this Age of Deadly Seriousness
APRIL: We’ll get to FROG (I needed a laughter break)
Thank you for the list of resources, Janet. I’m happy to see there is interest in trying to bridge divides. I hope our Congress decides to do the same, though it does not look likely.
At the moment, I’m more focused on the next Thanksgiving dinner table or whatever brings family and friends together where there might be explosions of opinion. I was just rereading my “Blame it on the oxytocin” post of last year, in prep for this presentation I’m doing on Sunday. We’re talking deep-seated, hard-wired survival-mode reactions; opinions formed through emotion cannot be changed through reason.
I believe our current batch of those in charge of Congress have long ago given up on statesmanship, choosing ideology and party above all. That’s NOT how our Congress was designed to work. It’ll have to be a grassroots effort, I believe. We have to know how to converse with the woman behind us in the grocery line, or the passenger seated next to us on the long distance flight. And, we have to make it easy for those “others” — the Uncle Bobs we all have — to want to join our tribe. So to speak. Right now, I think if I were them, I’d run for the hills rather than listen.
But thanks for weighing in. And starting us off today.
Thanks for all these resources, Janet. It’s good to have a grassroots effort but I agree with Merril, the powers that be need to take this seriously.
Hi Kathy. Thanks so much for dropping in, when I know you have so much on your plate.
I don’t know how the “powers that be” will fare with trying to work together; they certainly haven’t been willing or able to for the past eight years. We the people put them there. And if We the people don’t replace them with more moderate thinkers (on both sides), I fear for the future of this country. But, until we can fix the political gerrymandering, that is not going to happen at the House level. You know the old saying, “Everyone hates Congress, but no one hates their own Rep.”
It’s scary to enter these kinds of conversations. That’s one reason I took a break and next week will report in on how we’re using humor in this very serious era. Except that, unfortunately, I can’t seem to laugh.
Janet — Wonderful post. I’m a proponent of bridging the gap. Thank you for the list of relevant resources.
You’re welcome, Laurie. Thanks for stopping by and for sharing my posts on your Twitter feed. So helpful. Welcome home.
My comment is not really on point but is an allied one. I like to change my media diet every so often avoiding the American news outlets, all of which are by nature contentious. Thus, my peek at the BBC, which views our news from the perspective of “across the pond.”
Years ago, as coordinator of cooperative learning training for a college initiative, I taught faculty creative controversy techniques, requiring participants to argue for opposing viewpoints. What a way to break down barriers. It boggles the mind why elected officials refuse to negotiate and/or compromise.
Hi Marian, I was at a forum last night on Fake News and heard of a survey done which found that those who listened mostly to NPR and BBC had the widest understanding of current issues (as opposed to narrow, ideological). You’ve chosen your alternatives well. I tend to just stay away from TV news. Radio and print work best for me.
Role plays can be eye opening, if you are willing to step outside your familiar, comfortable position. I believe the current stock of Congresspeople are ideologically fixated on one position — theirs — and find it impossible to step outside that “box.” Which reminds me of the other thing I heard last night — our founding fathers never used the word democracy (i’d never heard that before; even after four years in poli sci); they used “republic” instead because they believed that democracies ALWAYS devolved into mob rule. AND, it was why they held public education so very high. One must have an educated (in critical thinking skills at the least) populace to make democracy work. Don’t get me started ….
How to Take Care of Yourself in This Age of Incivility: LEAP FROG Part 3 – Janet Givens
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