Issue 16: How to Disagree

Volume 1, Issue 16

The Civilian’s Guide to Civil Discourse

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Does Yelling Ever Accomplish Anything?


You’ve heard me say this before, and I know I’ll say it many more times: each issue of The Civilian starts with a topic that I want to learn more about. I suppose the idea is that if I’m having trouble with something, someone else might too.

Civil discourse is one of those.

Maybe that sounds…well, bad…since I am always going on about civility, treating each other with kindness, and being fair. But the truth is, I have strong opinions about certain things. I am stubborn. I can be loud. I can be easily triggered. I try to be kind, fair, civil, a good listener. But sometimes I fail.

I want to work on this because I (100! PERCENT!) believe that the ONLY way that we can make the changes we want to see in this country is by WORKING TOGETHER. And the only way we can work together is if we:

  1. Listen to each other.

  2. Express our own viewpoints with civility.

I keep seeing memes and quotes about “burning the house down,” and I honestly don’t see what good can come of it.

To be clear, I’m NOT saying that we shouldn’t be angry or passionate or fight heartily for what we believe in. I am saying that change can not happen without opposing sides working together. And opposing sides are not going to work together if there is no civility.

On the other side of the coin, change cannot happen when we are too careful and conflict-avoidant. We need to be able to express our selves calmly and be able to listen to the other side, and gain understanding of each other’s viewpoints.

So, I made this handy little flowchart that I will be using to decide with whom and when to engage in a discussion. If you find it useful, I hope you will use it, too. And I hope that we can all be bright beacons of civility in the dark ocean that is our current political culture. (Patting myself on the back for such a cheesy metaphor there!! I’ll try to only use one of these per email, I promise.)

p.s. If there is an issue or two that you find yourself feeling SO strongly towards—or you have such a personal connection to—that you are not able to discuss civilly (and I think we all have at least one of those issues)… I encourage you to join an advocacy/action group. Find a group that aligns with your viewpoint, and they will help coach you on how to make the biggest impact in a group setting! That way you can make a huge difference AND maybe avoid the need to argue with your Aunt Lois, who (spoiler alert!) probably isn’t going to change her mind at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

I’m just thrilled that there are so many new faces around here. Thank you for allowing me in your inbox! I post the following at the end of every issue, and I hope you know that I mean every single word:

Everyone is welcome here.

Regardless of your viewpoint or your political party, if you’ve never followed politics in your life, or if you read ten news outlets a day, I thank you for joining us here. I’d love to hear your feedback on this issue and all issues yet to come. Simply reply to this email or find The Civilian on Twitter or Instagram.

With respect and civility,

Sarah Bohl

Also, I found this at the Denver airport the other day, and my husband quipped, “I think I remember Lincoln tweeting about this.”

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