Humanizing Norms When Discussing Controversial Issues
By Jorge D. H. Prósperi, 2020
“When you want wisdom and insight as badly as you want to breathe, it is then you shall have it. There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse. To express oneself badly is not only faulty as far as the language goes but does some harm to the soul.” Attributed to Socratic Philosophy
A casual conversation, talking, chatting – even dialoguing and debate differ from discourse. My perception of discourse is to engage at a more profound and discerning level of communication.
Like most forms of communication, language is often at the core. Marvelous, glorious language – the gift from the gods that allows us to articulate our humanness to each other. Where would we be without language . . . connecting and unleashing intellect, heart and spirit?
I humbly share the following norms when entering the space of discourse provided over many years by wise mentors . . .
I believe that language matters, not only as to its power to communicate but as to its accuracy, relevance and veracity.
I make it clear that I am speaking from the ‘I’ perspective, because “we and they” may not be present to refute or challenge what I say. I can’t speak for, represent or appropriate another person or group of people.
I must be accountable for promoting and supporting a deeper conversational level. I am responsible for going beyond generalities, non-specifics and the obvious.
I will speak truth to power advocating the pursuit of the truth wherever it may lead.
I will listen actively and intently to others. I don’t just hold my breath, waiting for my turn to jump in, but rather listen intently and discerningly. I will allow others to fully finish.
I make an effort to provide others, especially those who feel voiceless and invisible with “air time” so that their voices can be heard without condescension and pandering.
I will work towards assuring that the table of discourse has equal representation as to gender, age, status, class and power brokers.
I will not become an accessory, an accomplice, nor support unethical discourse.
I listen for the deeper meaning others attempt to share and clarify.
I may build on another’s comment or ask questions as to their reasoning and logic so as to authentically try to comprehend what is being expressed.
I recognize the importance of silence. Time and space may be needed to reflect on what has been said. Sometimes pondering on new thinking requires distance and focus.
I don’t rush to judgment on comments being “right”, “wrong”, “smart”, or “stupid.”
I understand and believe that discourse is not a debate nor about winning but reaching awareness, consensus, compromise, focusing on the greater good as to representation, fairness, equity, harmony and justice.
I believe that democracy, freedom, inalienable rights, rule of law and independence should be part of discourse as such core values are not static but dynamic elements constantly authenticating and amplifying their meaning and purpose on behalf of all human beings.
I forbid myself to automatically label a comment invalid. Instead, I urge for clarification, proof, evidence and validation. This does not mean that I have to agree with what has been said or what is being promoted.
I must take full responsibility for what I say and when I choose to say it.
I am responsible for my own learning. I realize that I can’t provide anyone with “readiness” to seek awareness, knowledge, learning and change.
I am constantly evaluating my statements as to whether they are absolute leaving no room for alternate points of view.
I make a concentrated effort to avoid statements that reflect an attitude of, “Right is right and I am – we are always right!”
I treat the candidness of others as a gift, honoring confidentiality.
I try not only to speak with eloquence but also listen with eloquence.
I do not dismiss another because of their level of education, status or class. Everyone’s voice matters.
I value language and am not afraid to expand my language with synonyms, antonyms, similes, metaphors in order to enhance coherence, comprehension and understanding.
I am aware of the presence of others and make an effort to validate their presence.
I am not afraid to walk towards a space where I will be in the minority avoiding isolating myself within the same constituency or affinity group.
I make a constant effort to be fully present in mind, body and spirit when working with others.
I accept the responsibility to be self-challenging and discerning in the pursuit of evidence-based, research-based, science-based knowledge and data without disregarding common sense and wisdom.
I willingly lean into the discomfort when addressing ideas that do not coincide with my current way of thinking and feeling. I try to reflect on the reasons for the discomfort.
I accept conflict and resolution as a necessary catalyst for learning, change and expanding my range of responses.
I am constantly learning to be comfortable with silence understanding that there is a different between solace and loneliness.
I am aware of the difference between looking and observing. I try to see people rather than just look.
I understand that, Criticality as it pertains to “critical thinking, critical dialogue, critical pedagogy, and critical constructive criticism” is not meant to personally degrade, insult or demean but to create a framework for critical discourse in order to promote scrutiny and examination by way of critical questions.
I will examine the meaning and purpose of quantitative and qualitative research equally.
I am constantly reflecting and deconstructing my perceptions, assumptions, biases, prejudices, predispositions, fears, social -isms and phobias – identifying their history, how they were learned, their power to oppress and identify their sources.
I review the genesis and history of my thinking. I reflect on the people and events that shaped my thinking. I seek awareness as to socializing agencies such as family, schooling, politics, religion, profession, colleagues, partner(s) that were instrumental in shaping my thinking and as to who I was, am and want to become.
I believe that change is an inevitable and a constant reality. I have a choice to either try to influence positive pro-active change working and collaborating with others for the greater good.