Hot Topics, Cool Heads: A Handbook for Civil Dialogue
There is a crying need for civility in our world. From families disagreeing at Thanksgiving tables to the halls of Congress, civility is in short supply. Most people can easily point to daily examples of incivility, but most people are unable to define “civility” or recognize what it looks like, much less practice it.
Hot Topics, Cool Heads: A Handbook for Civil Dialogue, written by the founders of the Institute for Civil Dialogue, traces the lack of civility in our society, defines what it is from a communication perspective, then identifies the characteristics of a civil communicator and outlines the importance of civil listening. It then introduces the format of Civil Dialogue®, a method for people to present many sides of hotly contested issues. Through spontaneously participating in an audienced dialogue, participants are lead through a facilitated conversation by taking a position on a provocative statement. Civil Dialogue features a semi-circle, where people who strongly agree and strongly disagree must face one another, while those who somewhat agree and somewhat disagree sit next to them, with a neutral or undecided participant completing the semi-circle. A trained facilitator opens the dialogue by asking for brief opening statements, then allowing the participants to freely discuss their thoughts and feelings while following certain “rules of civility.” The audience is then asked for comments and questions before participants give closing statements, followed by a summary of the entire dialogue by the facilitator. By modeling civility, participants learn to understand different perspectives as they give voice to their own positions. These skills of a civil communicator can be used in conversations where people vehemently disagree with one another, without the goal of advocacy, but to enhance understanding. Through this understanding comes a greater foundation for democracy. Civil Dialogue can be used in a variety of contexts, so people need not fear having conversations about politics, religion, or sex. The necessary fundamentals of Civil Dialogue are included in the appendices.
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