Diversifying your perspective

Ground rules for civil conversation

A couple weeks ago, we gave you the challenge: Take a small step towards engaging with someone you disagree with—not through emotionally and mentally draining conversation—but by reading their arguments with an open mind. Not only will this habit of regularly reading opposing positions stretch your own thinking, but it will better prepare you for conversations when you’re ready to have them. 

However, you’re a busy person. Who has time to go out and diversify their reading list? Civil Squared is here to help! This week, we pulled together three online publications where you’re sure to find perspectives that test you and give you a lot to chew on.  

  • ArcDigital — They call themselves “the internet’s best opinion page” and publish a wide variety of views on every topic under the sun. They do it, not because they agree with every view they post, but because they trust their readers to assess the arguments presented and come way better for having engaged them. Here you can find justifications of Antifacritiques of Antifa, multiple perspectives on the morality of abortion, and much more. Choose your own adventure and start thinking. 

  • Intelligence Squared — Maybe you prefer hearing ideas side by side, to mull them over. Or perhaps you don’t have a ton of time to read, but still want to hear some good old-fashioned debate. Intelligence Squared brings experts to the table to debate important questions in a civil, structured manner. Every debate has a resolution with two experts for and two against. And all debates are available in podcast form as well. Recent topics include police reform, the US two party system, and nature vs nurture in parenting outcomes.  

Before you dive in and start reading (or listening), also remember the ground rules that we suggested last time: 

  1. Approach the piece seeking to understand the point of view of the author or the subject of the piece, not to refute it immediately. Give the author the fair hearing you would want if you were explaining your position to them.  
  1. Note points of agreement, whether they’re arguments made by the author or just shared concerns or goals. You may disagree about how to reach them, but shared values are the first step in figuring out how to live with your disagreements.   
  1. Observe when something in the piece provokes you, and then ask yourself why. Exploring your own reactions may help you explain your values to others.    
  1. Write down what you learned at the end. It doesn’t have to be a responsive essay, but a few clear takeaways will solidify the value that you get from engaging in the exercise.   

Following these principles, we can all glean value from opposing viewpoints and improve ability to have meaningful, impactful conversations!  

Photo by Yolya_ilyasova on Adobe Stock