Civility is not Everyone’s Cup of Tea
Listening, learning, sharing and adapting are difficult concepts for someone who is all about instructing, rebuking, demeaning and winning. Much of value is missed when the desire to beat down another’s position drives participation in a discussion rather than engaging in a free exchange of ideas that advances the knowledge of everyone.
It helps to think of a civilized discussion as an effort to find the best solution to a problem or reach an agreement on the best course of action that is consistent with an accepted principle. With that in mind, it is reasonable to make every effort to draw on the unique experiences of as many individuals as possible and to give each idea thorough consideration.
Of course it is obvious on it’s face that not everyone is wired that way. Some of us see a discussion, any discussion, as a contest that deserves our very best effort to vanquish the opponent at all costs. It’s just an ego thing, we feel diminished if the other person walks away with their beliefs and self-respect intact and we are denied a victory.
At other times we feel deeply about an issue and are proud to occupy the moral and intellectual high ground and are not about to share our pedestal with someone with a different view. The whole idea of giving thoughtful consideration to other views is foreign to us. Our beliefs and opinions have become part of who we are and to give in to another’s argument is to give up part of our soul.
But maybe there’s hope. If just once we would put winning on the back burner and commit ourselves to finding common ground with another person, it may open a new world. We may even take great pride in becoming a participant in problem solving rather than being the undefeated champion of nothing.