Encouraging Civil Discussion and Engagement

Published: Tues., June 16, 2020

Having a civil discussion and effective engaging with challenging issues can seem difficult, especially at times of conflict in our world. However, these times are exactly when you should be seeking to engage these conversations. You may also be realizing that you could use more resources to help you, so we wanted to share a UNL resource available for you to help with this. Whether you are working to engage in civil conversation with your department colleagues, in your lab, with students if you teach, or in any campus organization you may belong to, these workshops will help you better engage with others in civil discourse.

Last year, UNL began offering a program on Peace and Civility through the Center of Civic Engagement. This program was developed specifically for collegiate students. They are available to offer trainings and consultations for you, your students, or your organizations. It’s built around nine major tools of civil discourse: Apologize, Be Inclusive, Be Open, Don’t Gossip, Give Constructive Criticism, Listen, Pay Attention, Show Respect, and Take Responsibility. Each of the ideas has multiple lessons and topics for individual workshops or meetings. The goal of the program is to improve how groups and individuals work together constructively. This program used research from Kolb's experiential learning cycle to help students actively engage with these ideas in a meaningful way.

  • Apologize: This unit contains 11 separate lessons and focuses on acknowledging mistakes and sincerely working to repair damaged relationships.
  • Be Inclusive: This unit features eight separate lessons centered on recognizing the value of welcoming a variety of diverse perspectives and acknowledging differences. Inclusivity and welcoming diverse perspectives is essential to broadening your awareness and ensuring that you are creating an environment where we can hear from and benefit from those other perspectives.
  • Be Open: This unit includes 12 lessons addressing openness to new ideas, building consensus and looking for opportunities to agree.
  • Don’t Gossip: This four-lesson unit focuses on avoiding spreading falsehoods that could affect the group dynamics. They even address identifying gossip, rumors and fake news and the effects of these on our lives.
  • Give Constructive Criticism: This nine-lesson unit offers information on providing constructive feedback (both positives and negatives) and focusing on sticking to the issues at hand in that feedback, and not personal attacks.
  • Listen: This eight-lesson unit helps participants learn to truly listen to others’ perspectives and points of view. Often, we may think we are listening to others but we are not truly hearing what they say.
  • Pay Attention: This eight-lesson unit helps participants better observe and understand the world around you including the emotions and responses of those around you. Missing non-verbal cues can often lead to misunderstandings.
  • Show Respect: This six-lesson unit engages with the idea of what respect means and how to show respect in different social situations.
  • Take Responsibility: In this seven-lesson unit, participants will focus on taking responsibility for actions, rather than shifting blame to others and setting goals publicly.

If you are interested in utilizing these workshops in any way, please contact Kris Baack at kbaack1@unl.edu. Programming can easily be adapted to your specific needs and concerns. They can also offer training on conflict resolution and leading with compassion, among other topics.