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The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus


Defining Civil Discourse: Let’s Hear From You

Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2013

Goal #1 of The League of Women Voters of Metro Columbus 4 R Strategic Plan is; “Cultivate the belief in and practice of civil discourse among all community members”, an ambitious goal, indeed.  And, the priority strategies listed to implement that goal – “modeling civil discourse in all public events “and “set standards on what we mean by civil discourse” – provide equal challenges.


The Civic Education and Engagement Committee has worked on defining the characteristics of civil discourse.Membership will be asked to approve the following definition of civil discourse at the Annual Meeting on June 3. 


Definition of civil discourse 

Civil discourse is dialogue which is respectful of differing opinions and leads to better understanding of points of potential common ground and disagreement. It permits more informed discussion of public issues which is a key component of the democratic process.


Good Practice in Civil Discourse

In the good practice of civil discourse, participants:


1.      Respectfully recognize opposing points of view and genuinely attempt to understand them

2.      Constructively engage in the discussion of difficult public issues

3.      Make a genuine effort to seek common ground and consensus

4.      Separate the people from the problem; avoid personalizing issues

5.      Actively listen and participate with openness to new ideas and other points of view

6.      Are willing to step back from an issue and reframe the question in order to find any common ground

7.      Thoroughly explore all ideas presented before reaching judgment or conclusions

8.      Are able and willing to explain the rationale and evidence supporting their opinions

9.      Do not accept deliberate distortion of information or diversion from the topic under discussion