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Civil Discourse Defined: The What, Why and How

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| August 17, 2021

Expand your mind and open up possibilities through civil discourse.

You may have come across the term civil discourse on various occasions. But you may still wonder, what exactly does it refer to, and why should you care?

Let’s get onto the same page on what civil discourse means, why it’s important, how you can engage in productive civil dialogues and how to avoid the echo chamber that limits your perspectives.

What Is Civil Discourse?

Civil” has many different meanings, and in this context, it refers to a deeper sense of civility that forms the foundation on which democratic societies work. It’s about displaying behaviors that contribute to good citizenship. Meanwhile, “discourse” refers to the communication of thoughts through words and conversations or a formal discussion of a subject in speech or writing. 

Civil discourse involves a mutual sharing of views in a dialogue. The goal is to promote greater understanding among the parties through respectful and engaging conversations without rancor. These exchanges aim to create space that includes and recognizes different perspectives, opinions, experiences and identities.

Here at The Doe, we define civil discourse as:

  • A respectful exchange of thoughts and opinions.
  • An engagement between two or more parties to achieve better understanding.
  • A courteous discussion that does not necessarily conclude with an agreement or solution.

Why Is Civil Discourse Important?

Thoughtful conversations allow us to exchange ideas about issues that matter. They help strengthen our relationships with other people by gaining insights into their beliefs and points of view. We can enhance our understanding of a topic and promote our personal growth. We can also learn from others and broaden our perspectives to make informed decisions.

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How to Engage in Productive Civil Discourse

To reap the benefits of civil discourse, we need to develop mutual respect and understanding by creating an environment for a constructive dialogue.

Create Space for Civil Dialogues

We view the world around us through the filter of our experiences and identities. Some topics are more sensitive for certain people, and we must be thoughtful, respectful and considerate to those who have different opinions.

Focus On the Issue (Not the Person)

When we discuss a topic we’re passionate about, many tend to take things personally. But resist the temptation to make it about the person. Instead, focus your energy and excitement on the issue at hand to have an objective conversation.

Set Safe Boundaries

If a topic makes you feel anxious or stressed, let people know what you are willing and unwilling to discuss. Meanwhile, respect others’ boundaries when having a civil dialogue. You may also limit the amount of information you consume per day to avoid getting overwhelmed or triggered.

Keep Your Communications Open

Be conscious of how you communicate with those around you. Don’t hurt your relationships just because you have different points of view. When you show that you value each other’s opinions, you strengthen your relationships.

Facilitate Conversations

You can increase the chances of having a productive civil dialogue by identifying a clear purpose, setting up a framework to maintain focus, including everyone in the conversation and establishing a common ground to promote understanding.

Tap Into the Power of Proximity

Become informed by learning about people impacted by an issue. Read or listen to their stories to develop an in-depth understanding of the broader human condition, which will allow us to expand our worldview and see different possibilities. That’s why we create a safe space for anyone to share their anonymous narratives so we can all expand our perspectives.

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Achieving the Goals of Civil Discourse

To reap the benefits of civil discourse, we need to employ the appropriate vehicles. There are four traditional modes of discourse that describe the variety, conventions and purposes of language-based communication, particularly writing and speaking. They are: 

  • Narration: Use storytelling techniques to share a fictional or non-fictional event.
  • Description: Tell how things look, feel, taste, smell and sound—often to evoke a mood.
  • Exposition: Inform readers through process analysis, definition, classification, comparison, cause and effect and problem and solution.
  • Argument: Use logic to convince others about your point of view through the presentation of evidence to support your reasons.

Civil discourse opens up opportunities for us to connect with others by understanding their points of view and enhance our personal growth by broadening our perspectives.

Here at The Doe, we foster civil discourse through creating space for unfiltered stories—giving our members the opportunities to explore a broad spectrum of viewpoints and confront their biases.

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