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How to Reclaim Civil Discourse

    • 1). Show respect for differing opinions, as well as your opponent himself. These opinions mean as much to him as yours do to you. You don't have to agree with these opinions to show the simple courtesy of respecting his right to have them. In doing so you treat your opponent the way you wish to be treated. Remember that your opponent is not your enemy, even if you do not agree.

    • 2). Listen to what is being said, rather than just wait for the opportunity to speak. Oprah Winfrey has quoted that everyone simply wants to be heard. A good way to avoid upsetting your opponent unnecessarily is simply to hear what she has to say. This also stems from showing your opponent simple respect.

    • 3). Avoid name-calling. Insults are unnecessary and juvenile, and are commonly used in the place of legitimate debate. It is too easy to resort to this playground behavior, and once you do the opportunity to have your opponent hear what you have to say flies right out of the window.

    • 4). Grow a thicker skin. Just because you refrain from calling names doesn't mean your opponent will do the same. This is to upset you and illicit a specific response and possibly distract you from your point. Do not give in to your knee-jerk reaction. Stay on topic and stay calm.

    • 5). Appeal to your opponent's sense of empathy. Tell your opponent how you developed your ideals, including personal stories that can put a face on a principle. This will allow him to see the situation from another set of eyes and another point of view.

    • 6). Likewise develop your own sense of empathy toward others. Hear why your opponent feels the way that she feels and try to put yourself in her shoes. Determine how those circumstances may affect your own point of view. Instead of just saying, "I understand," endeavor to really try to relate to what is being said.

    • 7). Avoid broad blanket statements, stereotypes and hyperbole. These literary devices are exaggerations that are used to illicit a strong response. Avoid words like "every," "all" or "always." Speak to a specific issue, rather than an entire group or philosophy.

    • 8). Never use hate speech or threats, even in jest. Violent rhetoric is ineffective in the course of civil discourse, and can even prove dangerous. A person who feels threatened may likely strike back out of fear, and this obstructs real progress in a civil debate.

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