October 26, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 26 ~ Civility includes mastery of the basic courtesies: please, thank you, you’re welcome. #civility

Indeed, simple courtesies are the building blocks of civil discourse. These small habits engender a sense of dignity to a conversation and display an intrinsic respect for the other participants.

Want to build personal credibility? Be thankful and gracious when you speak to people. Even in moments of disagreement being courteous allows the discourse solid traction to keep moving forward.

Somewhere along the way someone started acting like “being right” completely overshadowed “acting right” or “speaking right.” The idea caught on, and a win at all costs attitude developed in our manner of discourse and disagreement that leaves no room for courtesies. It looks and acts something like this: “If I am right, then you are wrong, and therefore you are not deserving of my courtesies, and I am not obligated to be courteous, especially if my good manners might steal some of the impact of my superior ideas.” Sound like anyone on the radio you’ve heard recently? I’ve heard that attitude spoken on both sides of the aisle, right and left!

A Presbyterian friend of mine once made a self-deprecating joke about his denomination’s tendency to be slow to adopt changes and fast to assemble committees for long and multiple meetings, he said, “We Presbyterians are the ones who can miss an opportunity to do right because we’re so focussed on doing it right. I get what he’s saying, and I can chuckle with him at the joke, but I also have to give some grudging respect to the attitude of doing things well.

October 11, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 11 ~ Allow the other to self-identify: Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Democrat, Republican, etc… #civility

It is basic courtesy and also civil to allow the other person to self-identify. It’s very common these days to hear things like, “She’s not really a liberal” or “He’s secretly a socialist.” From politics to religion, re-identifying people is a tool to isolate and motivate.

Isolate? Oh yes, this is a way that candidates or people are “cut from the herd.” If you don’t like what someone says, then remove them from the “group” so that their voice is minimized. It’s really a step beyond winning an argument as you assume the role of arbitrating who is even allowed to participate in the discussion. In a religious context you strip someone of the self-identifers of Christian, Muslim, Evangelical, Catholic… and in a political discourse the person becomes less than or simply not a Conservative, a Liberal, a Republican, a Democrat or even an American.

Motivate? Oh, yes this motivates! Few things can motivate the masses to rally to your cause than exposing the “wolf among the sheep,” the one who comes in under another guise and is set to attack and devour. Re-identifying the other person can motivate the mob and rally the troops. It can also incite the mob when we use loaded labels for the other person! We all know what it means in certain contexts to call someone a “Socialist” in our country, or a maybe a “Muslim” a “Liberal” or “Un-American.”

Civility allows the other person to self-identify. This is not the same as ignoring the substance of their arguments or abdicating your own convictions. The civil person may still challenge the substance of a statement or an argument. The civil person may still ask questions about and respond to the content of the other person’s words and actions. But the civil person will not take the other person’s ability and right to self-identify. In a real way this is living out the “golden rule” of “doing to others as you would have do to you.” What a great rule for guiding our discourse!