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Ground rules for civil discourse   

April 19, 2021

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As members of the Saint Mary’s community and as residents of the state of Minnesota, working to address the significant issues of racial injustice confronting us, we want to engage in discourse that is respectful and civil so that our conversations can be productive. Here are some actions and attitudes that might help with those discussions whether inside the classroom or outside it (from the educational resources of United States Courts):

  • Be mindful of your own behavior. Notice how you internally are reacting/responding when others speak. Pay attention to how your words and your silence are impacting the experience for others in the group. What are you doing to create a welcoming environment for differing opinions? Are you looking at each speaker and giving your full attention? Are you listening with an open mind — momentarily putting aside what you will say next? Are you asking clarifying questions? Are you being careful not to take over the conversation by talking longer than others? Are you refraining from subtle, but disrespectful behavior or not paying attention when others speak?
  • Wait to be recognized by the moderator before speaking. This allows time — before you speak — for reflection on what the previous speaker(s) have said.
  • Don’t interrupt or talk over someone else who is speaking, even when you are excited.
  • No side conversations. They are disrespectful to the speaker and distract listeners from the person who has the floor.
  • Listen for content in the statements of others, especially when you disagree. Listen for what the speakers are trying to communicate, even if they aren’t expressing their points concisely. Process what is being said. Give equal time to opposing views.
  • Find common ground. Identify and call attention to areas of agreement.
  • Follow the direction of the discussion. Don’t repeat what already has been said. Relate your comments to those of previous speakers.
  • Ask questions. Don’t assume that you know what someone else means. Ask the speaker to help you understand perspectives different from your own.
  • Don’t embarrass yourself or disrespect others by making demeaning or inappropriate comments, facial expressions, or gestures. No eye rolling, sighing, or checking out of the conversation. Moderate your tone, so that you don’t sound aggressive.
  • Differentiate between facts and opinions. Both are valid when expressed appropriately.
  • Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.