Column: Civil discourse should be the norm

Column: Civil discourse should be the norm

Civil discourse is difficult. We all have friends, family and peers with varying perspectives and with those, unique experiences are developed and opposing views arise. 

We should practice civil discourse whenever possible in order to achieve a greater understanding of those around us. When we find ourselves in heated conversations, it is difficult to effectively communicate when you are not understanding the other person’s perspective. This could play a role in how you feel about the topic.

When someone disagrees with your viewpoint on an issue, it is easy to think that you are right and they are wrong. however, it is beneficial to understand ideas that differ from yours since everyone is allowed to have their own views.

Conflicts arise when people share these differences. To dilute the tension in civil discourse, I encourage that you first understand the dispute. Don’t feel guilty about accepting a particular view.

For instance, not too long ago I went to a convention with Pacer Times.  We were at dinner and a conversation about a caravan of Central American migrants started. The friendly discussion turned into a political debate between two of my friends.

They were not able to stay on the initial topic and veered into a discussion on how the conversation was being framed. Without a resolution in conversations like this one, the exchange likely turns into a heated debate.

I don’t know about you, but I believe it is counterproductive for the truth to be in opposition to another truth.

Arguing stops us from hearing what the other person would like to express. Successful civil discourse entails listening to understand and knowing that a personal truth is just one of many.  

In my case at dinner, there were two separate concepts being combined into one discussion. There was no understanding of the differing opinions in order to move on to another topic.

The inevitable discourse begins when differences are shared, but discourse does not have to be heated. If you remain calm, you open yourself to another point of view and are able to articulate your point of view as well. This is civil discourse at its core. It is OK to disagree!

What happened with my friends was that they disagreed, and it was a difficult conversation because they were arguing against one another rather than sharing their ideas and being open to opposition. They had two different truths, but refused to hear each other out.

To be sure your conversations lean toward understanding, be aware of some common mistakes made in debates. Failure to understand is commonly linked to various fallacies. 

Logical fallacies (statements posed as reasonable truths, but are actually flawed or dishonest), post hoc fallacies (falsely assuming cause and effect based on the order in which events occurred), non-sequitur fallacies (jumping to an unrelated point) and ad hominem fallacies (personal attacks) are common mistakes that hinder civil discourse.

A logical fallacy is simply an idea based on mistaken assumptions. So if you believe that the sky is green, you could not have civil discourse because you would not have a true claim to argue, rather a false claim with no support.

Ad hominem fallacy is when the messenger is attacked rather than the actual message. Whatever is said may be true, but it has nothing to do with the argument. The original conversation my friends were having was focused on the caravan, but at some point it led to how the speaker was discussing the caravan. 

Attacking the messenger rather than the message does not lead to a resolution, instead it creates negative conflict in an already heated discussion.  

Discourse is natural but civil discourse takes discipline. The focus is to come to an understanding of each other’s perspective, and if a compromise cannot be achieved, that is also OK. You must respect the viewpoint nonetheless. 

Practice ways to have effective civil discourse.


 Columns written by editors and writers of Pacer Times do not necessarily reflect the opinion of staff members or leadership. Letters to the editor may be emailed to Editor-in-Chief Cecilia Maddox at, and will be published at the editorial staff’s discretion.  



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