The first presidential debate might have been a train-wreck in terms of procedure and process – and voters learned virtually nothing about policy – but there are still lessons to be learned from watching this debacle:
- True dialogue begins with a commitment to civility, to honoring the humanity of your “opponent.”
- As I’m always preaching to my students, listening is an active process. Shut your mouth and open your ears. Engage deeply with what the other person is saying. Process your thoughts before you respond.
- Politeness isn’t weakness. It’s a recognition of social norms that we have formed in order to keep emotions in check, and to facilitate a respectful exchange of ideas.
- Rules mean nothing if they are not observed and enforced.
- Aggression isn’t strength. In fact, it looks a lot like fear.
I’m thinking of my students in the Argumentation & Advocacy class, and how we discussed these things. We started with the idea that argumentation doesn’t mean quarrelling – it means building and presenting a convincing case for what you believe. What we saw on television the other night was quarrelling. It’s unproductive to participate in, and unpleasant to watch. Let’s reflect on the values of listening and hearing, and honoring each other’s humanity.