Discourse with Mutual Respect, Dignity and Integrity ~ Humanizing Norms When Discussing Diversity

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 from the “I perspective” the following norms when entering the space of discourse accumulated over some 45 years as a participant and facilitator at national workshops, conferences, colloquia and classroom discussions.

While the central focus was Diversity Literacy, I discovered that the norms are universal and can enhance credibility, integrity and dignity when sitting at the table of discourse.

These norms were presented at the beginning of such gatherings in order to create an environment of civility and inclusivity in order to engage in complex and challenging concepts.

I believe that language matters because it can enhance communication, 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 must be accountable for promoting and supporting a deeper conversational level. I am responsible for going beyond generalities and non-specifics.

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. 

I will work towards assuring that the table of discourse has equal representation as to gender, age, status and power brokers.

I will not become an accessory to or an accomplice in the support of unethical discourse.  

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 to ponder new thinking requires pause and reflection.

I understand and believe that discourse is not about winning a debate but reaching awareness, as well as consensus, and compromise.

I must take full responsibility for what I say, as well as when and where I choose to speak.

I am responsible for my own learning and “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 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 or status or class. Everyone’s voice matters. 

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. I do not fear standing alone.

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 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 use critical questions to introduce and explore ideas by way of quantitative and qualitative research. 

I am constantly reflecting and deconstructing my perceptions, assumptions, biases, prejudices, predispositions, fears, social -isms and phobias – identifying their history, how they were learned, and their power to oppress. 

I believe that change is an inevitable and a constant reality. I have a choice to try to influence positive, pro-active change working and collaborating with others for the greater good.

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