“We don’t necessarily need fewer arguments in America right now, we just need less stupid ones.” So began the podcast with Eric Liu from the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship and American Identity Program. It’s true not only in the homestretch of this super-charged election season but in situations throughout the year.

Aspen has partnered with Allstate Insurance and the nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves to provide training and resources to help people “bring the simmering tensions to the surface” and gain an understanding of the perspective of the “other.” In this spirit, they offered 3 dimensions of a better argument and 5 principles to follow, all with the caveat that a resolution may not be achieved, but the chances of improved understanding increase.

The three dimensions of a better argument:

  1. Understand the history and reckon with it. Most disputes are not new so it is helpful to know the context.
  2. Face the emotions.
  3. Be honest about who holds the power.

The five principles for better arguments:

  1. Take winning off the table. (Aim for understanding instead.)
  2. Prioritize relationships and listen passionately.
  3. Pay attention to context.
  4. Embrace vulnerability.
  5. Make room to transform. Allow yourself the possibility that you might be changed.

The Better Arguments Project offers free resources, opportunity to engage in or host virtual arguments, and the ability to become a Better Argument Ambassador. Instead of reverting to silence or shouting, this path of civil discourse may be the key not only to saving democracy but your personal relationships and organizational culture as well.

 

 

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