I cannot influence how you will conduct yourself in our discussions. That’s your decision to make. But I can control my own behavior. I can commit to holding myself to the highest standards of civil discourse and honourable behavior.
I cannot solve the problem on my own, but I pledge to no longer contribute to it.
[Please note, this is a work in progress]
1) I will assume you are an intelligent, civilized person, and treat you accordingly; you are not my enemy.
It all begins here. I will do my utmost to behave as an intelligent, civilized person, and I will assume that you are going to return the favour. If we cannot do this much, not much else matters.
2) I choose not to be offended, scared, angered, or triggered by differing viewpoints, shared respectfully.
Sometimes viewpoints that differ from mine might well up some unpleasant thoughts and reactions. I will keep them to myself. If I have difficulty with something you have said, that is my issue, not yours. As long as you are sharing your beliefs in a civilized, intelligent manner then I will not respond with my emotions.
3) I will give honest consideration to your views and the reasons why you embrace them.
It is not merely enough to listen politely; I will actually take what you say seriously. I will not merely listen politely, only waiting my turn to prove you wrong. I will assume that you have some insights that I should consider. If I continue to disagree with you, it will not be for lack of understanding what you believe.
4) I will assume the most charitable interpretation of everything you say, insofar as there may be ambiguity.
We are all human, and sometimes what we say can be misunderstood. Language is not perfect; even the greatest master of language can stumble on clarity. If there is any ambiguity in what you say (or what I think I heard you say) I will strive to find the most charitable interpretation of your words. If the ambiguity is fundamental to our conversation, I will seek clarity.
5) If you are unnecessarily aggressive I will assume that is out of character for you until you prove otherwise through repetition.
We are all human, and sometimes we say things we regret. If you make such a mistake, I will assume your outburst is not typical of the kind of person you are. I will assume it is a one-time event unless, of course, it becomes a regular occurrence.
6) I will assume that you mean exactly and only what you say; you do not have a hidden agenda nor are you being intentionally deceptive.
It is so easy to assume the other person “really means…” by what they say, while ignoring their clear message. If you say you hold to a certain belief, value, priority then I will take you at your word. I will not put words in your mouth, beliefs in your mind, or values in your heart.
7) I will never label you (“__ist,” “__phobic”) or your beliefs (“hate speech,” “discriminatory”).
Disagreement is never grounds for name-calling. Labeling somebody else with words that end in “ist” and “phobic,” or labeling certain ideas “hate speech” or “discriminatory” does nothing to advance any meaningful discussion. Nor does it effectively alter anybody else’s perspective; it only serves to close doors and entrench existing viewpoints.
8) I will use electronic communication as a supplement, not a replacement, to in-person conversation.
Electronic forms of communication (e.g., social media, email, chatrooms) have proven to be one of the most disastrous forms of communication in human history. For various reasons, communication from behind the digital veil turns sour far more often, and far faster, than communication that takes place in person. I will focus my time and energy on talking with you in person, rather than digitally.
9) I will never speak ill of your character to yourself or others, in your presence or in your absence.
It can be so tempting to badmouth those with whom we agree. I may continue to disagree with you but there is no need for disagreement to turn personal. You can rest, assured, that I will never speak ill of you either to your face, or to others when you are not around. I will do my utmost to defend your character at all times.
10) I fully support your right to publicly articulate and defend what you believe to be true, regardless of popular opinion on the matter.
A truly free and healthy democracy requires the free exchange of differing viewpoints. Even though we may disagree, I assure you that I will always defend your right and freedom to express your views in appropriate public contexts.
11) If you do not extend to me the same courtesies that I am extending to you, then I will politely refrain from any further such conversation.
Not everybody I meet with will treat me by the same standards that I am committing to treat others by; standards that I believe are fundamentally honourable. Should you decide that you do not wish to extend these courtesies to others, that is your choice. I will respect your freedom to conduct yourself as you see fit, and I hope you will understand my decision not to discuss these issues with you.
If, at some point in the future, you decide that extending such courtesies is a worthwhile endeavour, the door is always open.