Open your mind to civility, an act that requires respect

Sunday , November 12, 2017 - 10:04 PM

ADRIENNE ANDREWS, special to the Standard-Examiner

This year at Weber State University, we are focused on the theme of civility.

Civility is about more than being polite — although being polite is a good start.

Instead, civility is about disagreeing while being respectful. It is about understanding that we may have differences, but we are willing to find common ground with each other and begin discussing those differences.

Civility requires we model the behavior of listening and seeking to understand in ways that honor rather than demean others. It requires us to stay open to hearing what someone has to say and why they have to say it.

Civility does not require us to change our perspective or position; It simply reminds us that there are different ways of seeing, understanding the world.

Additionally, we may occasionally find we are wrong. By engaging in civil discussion we might learn something.

You might think that civility and its rules do not matter to you. I urge you to reconsider. Start at home. How often do you disagree with a spouse, parent, sibling or child?

Do you listen to their perspective and try to understand their experience? Or do you educate them on what is “right” — your way of thinking/believing/experiencing the world? Has this ever been done to you? It doesn’t feel good when you do it to someone else and it certainly doesn’t feel good when it is done to you.

Consider your job. At work, do people listen to your ideas and consider them thoughtfully? Or do people steamroll those ideas and only focus on their own? Do you listen thoughtfully? Are you a steamroller?

People will share their ideas and concerns when they know who will value them and consider them for application. It also makes it easier to share your own solutions and possibilities when you know that people will be honestly open to them.

One of the remarkable things about civility is that its practice helps us share information and ideas that are critical for productive communication. By engaging in civil dialog, we can challenge a solution to determine who is helped or who may be harmed by this or that idea. This form of civility is a process of disagreeing productively.

When we disagree productively, we move away from entrenched thinking. For example, instead of using stereotypes about people, check your perceptions and logic. Think about the experiences someone else may have and how the solution you present will impact them.

Or, consider your facts and your values. Are they in conflict with each other? If so, what interpretation are you using? Who is helped or hurt by them? These small but effective questions can help us all be more civilly engaged in our work and in our home lives.

At the end of the day, when we are civil, we are respectful. When we finally value differences, our civility will be recognized.

Adrienne Andrews is Weber State University’s chief diversity officer. Twitter: @AdieAndrewsCDO.

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