Controversy with Civility

Controversy with Civility
September 13, 2023

In week seven of this series, let’s explore number six of the 7 C’s—“controversy with civility.”

This group value in the social change model recognizes that in any group effort, differences in opinion are likely, and those differences must be shared openly but calmly. Civility is respect for others, willingness to hear each other’s views, and holding back on criticism. This is easiest if you have already identified a common purpose to work towards.

Controversy can often lead to new, creative solutions to problems, but only if the participants are willing to give ground and admit that their proposed solution may not be the best answer. Go ahead and challenge “the way things have always been done,” but do your best to look for win-win solutions.

How do you resolve disagreements fairly and improve future relationships and interactions instead of damaging them? You have to be willing to negotiate instead of stubbornly holding your side without giving. Be sure to separate conflict from “right” and “wrong”—don’t make it personal; make it about finding the best possible solution. You may need to bring in an unbiased third party to facilitate the discussion.

Some barriers to this process include self-interest, unwillingness to cooperate, defensiveness, fear that something will be lost or given up, and lack of trust.

Some techniques you can use to help yourself act civilly in a heated exchange are to leave the room for a minute, diffuse the situation with humor, pause and breathe, and practice active listening—make sure you actually understand what the other person is saying.

A strong sense of community can also help people act with civility. If you see other people at bowling night, the town celebration, Rotary meetings, or the grocery store, you are more likely to focus on the issues rather than arguing with the individual. Do your best not to burn bridges with your neighbors—you both want what’s best for your community. You just may disagree on the best way to accomplish it.

Tip of the Week

Practice using either the PALS model (pause, ask, listen, speak) or the LEAD model (listen, empathize, acknowledge/apologize, do something).