One Step to Civil Discourse

by EPI Staff on July 26, 2011

This post originally appeared at my parenting blog The Gift of Good Manners. I will be cross posting some of my favorite content from that blog here at the Etiquette Daily periodically. I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I enjoyed writing them.

All the recent talk about civil discourse got me thinking. Certainly improving the civil discourse in politics is so important. And bringing civil discourse to the business table will surely improve things in the business world. But how do we get there? What needs to happen in order to change the nature of our discourse – wherever it is?

I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t. However, I know one answer for sure. If we introduce our children to civil discourse at home, in our schools, and in the community, they will, be more likely to bring it to the table in their adult life.


Mother to father: “You say the dumbest things.”

Father to son: “I was so embarrassed by that move you made in the game. What’s the matter with you anyway?”

Teacher to student: “Take this report to the office.”

No magic here – no magic words, no respect, no kindness, no civility. Those are essential ingredients to civil discourse and they change the nature of the dialogue.

Now listen:

Mother to father: “What was that you just said? I didn’t quite get it.”

Father to son: “That was an unusual move you made in the game. What were you hoping it would do?”

Teacher to student: “Please take this report to the office. Thanks.”

It’s up to us – parents. teachers, and everyone in society – to show our kids how the discourse changes with just a little extra thought. Use those “magic” words that change a demand to a request and show appreciation for a job well done. Re-frame a comment to the positive rather than the negative. Create a culture of civility and respect in the home, school, and community. I do know that’s one way we begin to improve the level of civil discourse in our country and we would all benefit.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lauren July 31, 2011 at 3:28 am

I have a question regarding online chat etiquette. Social networking and IM is increasingly popular and I consider it comparable to speaking to someone on the phone. I’m of the opinion that when chatting with a person online it’s inconsiderate to pause for an extended period of time or exit altogether because a third party (by phone or in person) starts up another conversation. I think it appropriate to inform the third party that you are currently indisposed, but you’ll get back to them. A good friend of mine has a differing opinion and gives priority to face-to-face conversation, and as a result the length of our conversations have gotten shorter. I only connect to them online once or twice a week due to time differences, so I don’t believe I’m being impractical. What do you think?


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