Trauger column: Civil discourse with respect and kindness
Without the exchange of ideas, we stagnate. To stagnate is not a very good thing. It is not a good thing personally. It is especially not a good thing for us as a community. It is easy to become myopic if the only viewpoints we hear, and maybe more importantly, that we listen to are our own, or those who are closely aligned.
Many times, it is difficult to hear, really hear, opinions that differ from our own. It is difficult, but necessary. How we present those ideas and opinions can make a huge difference in how others receive those ideas. Likewise, our response when presented with a differing viewpoint will make a difference in the outcome. It could make a difference in the outcome of the conversation and it could have much larger consequences.
Whether talking one-to-one, or in more public forums, such as the Post Independent or on social media, in a community like ours — and I use the term community quite broadly — our words have a tremendous impact, not only to those to whom the words are directed, but to everyone.
We are reaching friends, neighbors, employers, associates and customers. Our words are an insight into our values, morals and integrity. They are also an indication of the respect that we have for others when we do not agree.
The well-being and success of our personal lives, our community and our country is based on our ability to communicate. When we engage in dialog and civil discourse, we open ourselves to greater understanding, vision, cooperation and synergy.
What is “civil” discourse, really? Maybe the question to start with is, “What is it not?” Civil discourse is not the suppression of free speech. Free speech is one of our most precious privileges and freedoms, one not available in many countries. Civil discourse is also not necessarily politically correct. Civil discourse is not personal attacks. Civil discourse is also not just polite conversation, nor is it shallow.
The basis for civil discourse is respect. People can disagree without disrespect and still have a wonderfully enlightening, vibrant, thoughtful discussion. The closer the subject matter is to you, the more you care, the more difficult this can be, but also the more important it is.
Earlier this month, Steve Smith penned a letter to the editor in the Post Independent suggesting that some standards for civility and respect need to be enforced by the Post Independent. Perhaps.
However, I would suggest that we all need to be a little more thoughtful as we engage in conversation, take up pen and paper, or as we enter into these discussions or post on social media.
Some of us tend to put our ideas and opinions out there for the world, or at least the neighbors, to see. We realize that not everyone will agree with us, and most of us actually welcome that. We develop thick skin. It is about being factual and honest, but most of us realize that it is not about being “right.”
It is about challenging people to think and to question. We tend to be catalysts and disruptors. That is how we, our community and our nation, will continue to improve. That is how new ideas are formed. That is how we keep improving and moving things along. That is how we grow as individuals. That is how we coalesce as community.
Let’s continue to agree to disagree, and let us do it with civility, respect and a touch of kindness thrown in.
Kathryn Trauger lives in and writes from her hometown of Glenwood Springs. She has served the community as a member of Glenwood Springs City Council and chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and she currently serves as the chair of the city’s Financial Advisory Board. Her column, Perspective, appears monthly in the Post Independent. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-379-4849.
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