With everything going on around the world—a global pandemic, economic uncertainty and social unrest—being able to have meaningful and impactful conversations is more important than ever.

Let’s face it: We lack dialogue as a society. We’ve replaced it with a perpetual and driving need to jump to conclusions without navigating causes and effects.

With the aid of the partisan media, we are being squeezed into pigeonholes of perspective. If you are a conservative, you watch Fox News and affirm your views nightly. If you are a progressive, you watch MSNBC and do the same. If you are driving in your SUV, you program yourself with AM talk radio. If you are driving your hybrid, you program yourself with NPR. Millions of us are being molded by the “monomedia effect.” We no longer have a need for expanding our point of view—only for shining, buffing and embellishing our current ones.

We are well past questioning whether this approach toward shaping our views is helping us to become better communicators or conversationalists. We don’t need to listen or think about what we are hearing when we can simply parrot what we’ve been programmed to say. There’s no need to understand or examine our views because they are set, static and complete.

The reality is that our points of view are more complicated than partisan labels allow for: It’s time to talk—and listen.

Edward de Bono, author of Six Thinking Hats and one of the world’s great authorities on human thinking processes, has said that in western civilizations we have a dichotomous, preset approach to matters: “You state your view, and I’ll take the other side.” The consequence is that in our attempts to converse or exchange ideas, we often get trapped in either/or exchanges that bear little fruit but collect plenty of thorns.

If we cannot shift our gears of comprehension into neutral long enough to actually hear the other person’s perspective, then true conversation runs the risk of becoming an endangered practice. Until the other party in the conversation is convinced that you sincerely want to hear their perspective and understand their view, they will be preoccupied with sharpening their own blade, striking the greatest blow and winning the debate. Compromise isn’t even a consideration. Progress stalls.

When you introduce civility as your conversational platform, a civility built from genuine respect and curiosity, the spirit of the exchange is immediately and deeply affected. Hopefully, you have witnessed the phenomenon of civil and respectful conversation—when each party trusts in the other’s desire to hear and understand, and the exchange literally becomes a contest of courtesy:

“Go ahead. I want to hear what you think.”

“Please, tell me your view.”

“I insist. I really want to know what you’re thinking here.”

Think about it. Your fears of attack or accusation are disarmed. You become open to hearing the other party and reaching a place of understanding, if not agreement. Civility is a cornerstone for successful conversation, and is expressed best in tone, body language and posture.

Civility and mutuality can also be introduced into a conversation simply by altering the geometry of the conversation.

First « 1 2 » Next