By Liz Seefeldt, Civic Engagement Chair and Board Member - League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties
As we put election season behind us and look forward toward the holidays, some of us may be struggling with how to engage friends and family who hold ideals and political positions that are at odds with our own. The League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties has created a new focus area of Civic Engagement to deal with just this issue.
In researching what others are doing to promote positive civic engagement, we came across a valuable resource. The University of Arizona’s National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD)
has developed their Initiative to Revive Civility to encourage people across our nation to “Setthe Table for Civility.” The Initiative asks people to consider the need to heal the divisions in our country and to act to help increase civility and respect. One specific goal of this project is to get people from different perspectives to talk and listen to each other about theirpositions.
The NICD provides a wide range of tools to jump start your own civil discourse. From discussion guides to activities, and even a 20 Questions civility game, these resources can help you “Set the Table for Civility.” Activities are tailored for families and friends, faith gatherings, campus groups, and social media communities.
A favorite item is their “Tips to Avoid the Food Fight.” This includes suggestions to:
· Select a welcoming and comfortablespace
· Have clear intentions and make sure invitees understand the purpose of the gatheringand topics fordiscussion
· Agree on respectful ground rules before the discussion begins
· Listen to learn; the goal is to understand, NOTdebate
· Practice – because civility doesn’t always comenaturally
· Tend to self-care by paying attention to our reactions, finding ways to reduce tension,and communicating our discomfort withothers
· Have fun! Sharing stories and laughing together helps deescalate stressfulencounters and buildscommunity!
Other tools include a sample agreement of ground rules, “Tips for Managing Stress During Difficult Conversations,” as well as discussion-starting questions. You can event take the NICD’s civility pledge!
The National Institute for Civil Discourse started a nationwide grassroots effort to increase awareness of the need to change the tone of political interactions and to offer specific suggestions on how to accomplish that change. “The National Institute for Civil Discourse is a non-partisan institute based at the University of Arizona's School of Social and Behavioral Sciences dedicated to addressing incivility and political dysfunction in American democracy by promoting structural and behavioral change.” Learn more about the National Institute for Civil Discourse and its Setting the Table for Civility project at https://www.revivecivility.org/setting-table-civility.
If you’re interested in more information about protecting voting rights and ensuring an informed electorate, the League of Women Voters might be for you! The League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy. Get in touch with the local League at http://www.lwvabcwi.org/or firstname.lastname@example.org.