Let’s not review 2020

Looking forward and 5 links to the best tips for productive conversations

It’s that time of year: “Top ten” or “Year in review” lists are everywhere. 

I like a good year-end list. Most of the podcasts I listen to regularly came from a “Best podcast episodes of the year” list, and I often test myself with a “Best songs of the year” list to see how many I can actually recognize (fewer and fewer, every year).

But in year-end lists, as in all other respects, 2020 is way less fun than usual. 

I opened a link to Time Magazine’s “2020: The Year in Review” and was greeted with this sentence: “There was no way of knowing at the end of 2019 what the onrushing train of 2020 would bring.” With that start, I decided to skip the recap, figuring that I’d done my time just by living through 2020. I did, however, make the mistake of clicking on the accompanying video. Here’s a brief moment from that uplifting montage of key events: “Pandemics occur, they have always occurred, and they will occur.” 

Maybe let’s just skip the year-end reviews this year.

Looking forward, not backward

Instead of revisiting the highlights (or lowlights) from the past twelve months, let’s look forward and think about how to make 2021 a better year for conversation, regardless of what happens around us. 

We’ve argued about public health, elections, and justice this year. In 2021, we need to keep discussing all of those issues, but our conversations should be as productive as possible. With that in mind, we’ve gathered together some of our favorite tips on dialogue from some of our favorite guests in this weeks’ episode of the Civil Squared podcast

Here are some of the tips covered in our “2020 Gems Part 1: Civil Discourse Tips” episode. In this week’s episode, we’re sharing highlights from earlier podcasts, but you’ll find the full episodes linked below along with some advice from my colleague and co-author, Beth Erber. 

  • Tip 1:  Find people who disagree with you. You’ll learn the most from talking to them!
  • Tip 2:  You don’t have to agree and you don’t have to be open to being persuaded, but you should be open to understanding. The best way to get there is to be curious.
  • Tip 3:  Don’t be too focused on a particular outcome. Be realistic and recognize that “wandering around” will help you see and appreciate more of the intellectual “scenery” than rushing to your destination.
  • Tip 4:  Watch out for detours (like defending your “tribe” or performing for an audience) and know when to walk away. 

On behalf of all of us at Civil Squared, here’s to more productive conversations next year. We hope you fill 2021 with curiosity, listening, and the intellectual humility that supports strong relationships and community progress.

Civil Squared will be taking a couple of weeks off for the holidays. We’ll be back in your inboxes January 12th. Enjoy your holiday season!

5 links to tips for productive conversations

  1. Fear and Shortcuts, Civil Squared – Back in August, my colleague, Beth Erber, encouraged us all to do the “harder, quieter, riskier work of bridge-building with people who seem impossibly far away from you.” That’s still good advice, and you’ll find lots of other good advice from Beth on our weekly blog. 
  2. Tania Israel: Connecting Across the Political Divide, Civil Squared Podcast – I learned a lot from UC Santa Barbara psychology professor Tania Israel, including why conversations should be considered “opportunities, not mandates” and when it’s ok to walk away from tough conversations.
  3. Pamela Paresky: Habits of a Free Mind, Civil Squared Podcast – Perhaps more than any other tip I heard this year, University of Chicago psychologist Pamela Paresky’s encouragement to bring “intellectual curiosity” to my conversations has had an impact on the way I approach those with whom I disagree. 
  4. Russ Roberts: A Curious Conversation, Civil Squared Podcast – With more than 700 episodes of a popular podcast based on conversations with interesting people, economist Russ Roberts shares his tips for how to have productive and interesting conversations. Roberts believes that we learn best from conversation, not lectures.
  5. Jordan Blashek: A Democrat and a Republican Take a Road Trip, Civil Squared Podcast – Lawyer, businessman, and Marine Jordan Blashek recounts the road trips he and his friend, Chris Haugh, took over several years. Jordan is a Republican and Chris a Democrat, and while they have a lot of political disagreements, their friendship remains strong. Find out what it takes to maintain strong relationships, even when you and your friends have equally strong disagreements. 

Photo by Brian Jackson on Adobe Stock