Civil Discourse

August 10, 2010

Civil discourse is described as "an engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding."

Psychologist Kenneth J. Gergen describes civil discourse as "the language of dispassionate objectivity", and suggests that it requires respect of the other participants, such as the reader. It neither diminishes the others moral worth, nor questions their good judgment; it avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participants experiences.

Yet, in today's internet age, our conversations seem to be plagued with hate, fear, and misinformation. Has there been a breakdown of civil discourse in our socity? Why has it become so hard to talk about important issues?

Dr. Poppy McLeod, an Associate Professor of Communication at Cornell University. Her research and teaching focuses on group and organizational communication, social influence and decision-making, and she is particularly interested in the role of language in bias and conflict between different social groups. Dr. McLeod received her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Syracuse University and her Master's and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Harvard University.
Brad Rourke, a writer, consultant, and essayist based in Rockville, MD. Mr. Rourke has designed an executed national and local engagement projects, consulted in online engagement issues, writted a wide array of discussion materials, and is a sought-after speaker on civic engagement. His blog is widely read in the nonprofit and philanthropy sectors, and he is the founder and publisher of Rockville Central, which has become the second-most read local blog in Maryland.