This holiday, argue like an American

How to meaningfully engage with those with whom we may vigorously disagree.


“No politics at the table!”

This may be a well-intentioned rule at many a Thanksgiving dinner this year, especially after a hard-fought election. Yet, our country is rooted in a handful of core arguments that often defy resolution – and it is this never-ending debate that, in many ways, defines Americanism. From the Founding to today, our American identity is rooted in debate, discourse, and discussion. The very process of never-ending argument is what bolsters democracy.

But too often, arguments become fights, and that damages our Republic. So how do we meaningfully engage with those who we vigorously disagree with? Civic Nebraska’s Civic Health Program curates a clearinghouse of resources to help you nurture authentically American arguments this holiday season. Take a look and give some of them a try.

At a time of immense division, PURPLE tells the story of Americans with opposing viewpoints confronting their disagreements head-on and discovering the concerns and experiences that lie behind each other’s positions.  
LRC offers a sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding. Typically, 4-7 people meet for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of LRC’s nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating, they take turns talking to share and learn. 
Every American is affected by the divisions and outrage that prevent us from making progress on urgent problems. NIF’s issue guide is designed to help people to deliberate together about how we should approach this increasingly urgent issue. 
This guide will help prepare you to speak about what is most important to you in ways that can be heard, and to hear others’ concerns and passions with new empathy and understanding—even and especially if you continue to disagree.
Compromise is key to getting anything done in politics. But in our highly polarized world, how do you persuade rivals to seek common ground?
An authentic American conversation starts with you. In this article, we explore three guiding questions that may help you, and our nation, find a healthier dialogue with others in these times.
American civic life doesn’t need fewer arguments; it needs better arguments. The Better Arguments Project is a national civic initiative created to help bridge divides – not by papering over those divides but by helping Americans have better arguments. In partnership with communities and advisers around the country, the project has synthesized three dimensions and five principles of a Better Argument.
The Civil Conversations and Social Healing team represents The On Being Project’s presence in the world as we nourish, embolden and accompany the work of social healing. Our organizational capacities to produce audio and digital resources are strengthened by programs and convenings that stitch relationships across rupture and equip for resilience and repair.

Go Deeper:

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle (2016)
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt (2013)
I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers (2019)
Pocket Democracy: A Civic Sermon
by Steve Smith, Civic Nebraska (2020) 

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