Everyone at some point in their life would be in a situation where they have to partake in difficult dialogues with people who hold different beliefs and ideas. This makes it very important to not only be able to engage in civil discourse but also master the skills needed for participating in such discussions.
Civil discourse skills are needed almost in almost every setting. From the workplace, religious places, homes, family gatherings, and most importantly, educational settings. And in these settings, no matter how you try to avoid it, you will come face to face with topics so sensitive that staying calm would become a problem.
However, it will not be challenging for you with the proper and well-developed civil discourse skills. But how do you achieve this level of calm during these situations? How do you develop your civil discourse skills?
Listen, even while you speak
Civil discourse requires active listening. Where you listen actively to other participants, even if you are speaking.
Civil discourse is incomplete if the parties are not actively listening to each other. It helps different parties to engage in meaningful, respectful, and productive discussions. But suppose you’re not listening to other participants’ views or thoughts. In that case, you are missing one of the basic recipes for civil discourse.
Listening will not only let you know what the other party or parties feel or want. It is also a show of respect. To improve your skill in partaking or engaging in civil discourse, you must become a better listener. You need to hear and understand what the other party has to say respectfully before reaching a conclusion.
This will involve you listening not because you want to pass judgment or dismiss the thought but because you want to understand its rationale.
Remember, listening does not end when you begin talking. It also shows in how you speak and what you say.
Be mindful of the environment
Another important aspect of civil discourse you should be mindful of is the environment of the conversation.
A whole lot comes to play in the environment during a civil discourse. In a civilized discussion, the right environment that promotes civil participation is temperate. Anything other than this would make it difficult.
In a temperate environment, everyone who’s anyone is free to express their thoughts and views without any reluctance or fear of repercussions. This is the product of a respectful discussion and will always or most times lead to productive conclusions, especially if participants are honest.
Being mindful of the environment is one of the ways to boost your civil discourse skills. It will help you avoid a heated argument or saying harmful things to the other parties. A heated environment leads to bickering and shouting, which is not supposed to be in a civilized discussion.
On the other hand, a cold environment is where parties are afraid or too timid to speak. They do not partake in the discussion for some reason. Knowing these situations and how to avoid them is vital in engaging and participating in civilized discussions.
Focus on the issue
When discussing, the temptation to drift away from the issue or bone of contention is always high, especially if the other parties have very different views from you.
One good thing about civil discourse is that it begins with you. If the other party sees you sticking to the issue, they might attempt to do likewise. But that is not to say it always happens this way. Individuality matters.
In a discussion, the best way to stay civilized is to strive to always keep your focus on the issue. Do not be swayed by opinions, or don’t try to project too much of yourself into the discussion.
Focusing on the issue is helpful in two ways. It helps you avoid getting too personal or emotional in the discussion and not attack the other party’s personality.
Stay respectful at all times
It is a no-brainer how being respectful at all times is a way to develop your skills in partaking in a civilized discussion.
One of the definitions of civil discourse stresses the importance of being respectful to reach a communal and productive conclusion.
To develop your civil discourse skill, you must cultivate the habit of being respectful during their discussion. How do you do this?
- Be respectful when you speak.
- Don’t trample on people’s opinions.
- Don’t misquote or misinterpret what they say.
- Don’t infuriate them or try not to.
- Be respectful when you listen.
Do you know you can listen in a very disrespectful way? You could be listening, but your body language and facial expression say otherwise.
Civil discourse is important in having respectful conversations and reaching mutual understanding. When partaking or engaging in one, remember to listen attentively and respectfully, pay attention to the environment, and stay focused on the issue. Civil discourse is not a contest or a debate. It is a discussion done in a very civilized manner. So you need to act accordingly.