The pervasive decline of civility in our society can be seen in the media, our government and our everyday lives. In Weber Shandwick's Civility in America survey, 75% of Americans report that incivility has risen to crisis levels. When we stop talking with each other, listening to each other and working together to find solutions to our society’s problems, our democracy cannot survive. The open exchange of ideas between people of different views is one of the essential elements of a healthy, functioning democracy.
How can ordinary citizens combat incivility and affect change on a local and national level? It starts with listening to each other, and by agreeing to have conversations that follow a few basic guidelines that make it possible to really hear each other and learn from each other.
Individuals and communities will have different issues that can be explored with civility across differences, but imagine if through our collective desire for respect and civility, we rose together across our country to create the expectation that we want something different in our public discourse and our daily lives? Imagine if, after we got to know each other as people first, we as Americans reflected together on questions like this:
- What are you most thankful for about America?
- What are your thoughts and feelings about the deep divisions and incivility we see now in the country?
- What can we do to revive civility and respect, and find more effective ways to work together on common problems?
Questions like these and others can be discussed in many different types of settings—both structured and informal. Some of the ways you can have a revive civility conversation are:
- One on one with another person—Take a few minutes to talk with a friend or a colleague or a neighbor. Arrange a time to have a conversation with someone who you think has different political views than you.
- In a small group—Ask a group you are a member of (faith based, club, association, civic organizations, etc.) to have a conversation on civility at a regular meeting or invite a few people to get together to listen to each other talk informally.
- Hold a community conversation—Get two or more organizations to come together and host a conversation that brings together people from several different segments of the community to listen across differences and talk about how to combat incivility.
Suggestions and specific tools for conducting these different types of conversations can be found here: http://www.revivecivility.org/resources.