10 Ways to Practice and Model Civil Discourse (Or, how not to be an A-Hole!)

This is a follow-up to my last (and first ever) post: “I am a Feminist, but I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton” My article ended with this paragraph: “If you relate to only one side, you might not like my message. My moderate ideas are not sexy. Moderation will never make major headlines. No one will tweet about my message. Or, maybe you share my secret? Maybe you have kept silent to avoid tempers rising with angry dialogue across the well prepared Thanksgiving table? Maybe you too want our country to move on from hateful speech, angry posts, and polarization to a more solution oriented consensus-based philosophy of governance? If you do, then please join me to spread a moderate, solution-oriented, inclusive message so that we have a representative democracy that is intent on political discourse not on sensationalism and “alternative facts,” but one that truly demonstrates the power of the people.”

So, how do we practice and model civil discourse? Here are 10 ways that you can foster political discourse:

  1. READ

If you find an issue that fires you up, read every article, opinion, and statistic concerning that topic. Leave your comfort zone of one source shopping — go to Fox News or Huffington Post for the first time, but also go to as many media outlets as possible. (You may find the image on the left helpful.) Read as much as you can. Also, recognize when you need to read more.

2. LISTEN

Listen to people’s views. Try not to convince them of your own views, but do ask questions. Try to find divergent views so that you hear the “other” person. Take into account their story.

3. WEIGH

Weigh the pros and cons of a topic. If you need to, write a list with a line down the middle of it. Deeply analyze the issue.

4. DISCUSS

Share your pros and cons with at least one other person. Have a healthy discussion. Learn their story — recognize what shapes their opinions.

5. REFLECT

Meditate, take a walk, drive your car, take a shower…reflect where ever you do your best reflecting.

6. WRITE

Journal your ideas. Write an article on a site like medium.com. Write to your elected representatives. The website countable.us is very helpful — type in your zip code and you can easily contact your representatives.

7. FIGHT

Take action on your views. March if you need to. Let your voice be heard. This is a useful site: https://www.indivisibleguide.com/web/

8. DISCUSS (AGAIN)

Have lively discussions with more people.

9. FOLLOW-UP

If you have written to a representative, follow-up on your letter. Or, find that politician in a public space that includes cameras and ask questions about your topic.

10. REFLECT (AGAIN)

Continue to think and grow. Maybe also grab a stiff drink — civics is messy, time-consuming, and exhausting! In addition, Mirah Curzer’s article “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind,” might help with handling political fatigue.

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