Politics has always been at the top of the list of things not to talk about during dinner. If it’s brought up in conversation, tension immediately fills the room. To normalize these conversations in our lives as we approach a presidential election, students need to learn how to effectively voice their opinions using civil communication skills.
On Sept. 3, the Constructive Conversations event was co-hosted by the Civil Communication Work Group, the Meredith College Democrats and the Meredith College College Republicans. The program was held on Zoom and was led by Madison Sholar, ‘22, vice president of the Meredith College Democrats. Sholar introduced what civil communication is and how students can use it when discussing different topics or viewpoints. Civil communication is based on how people want to be treated, as well as principles of respect and restraint. Sholar also commented that civil communication is not meant to stifle freedom of speech, but can actually aid in better explaining one’s point of view.
The techniques that are key in having a civil conversation are to listen to understand, be aware of your own biases and assumptions, speak from your own experiences, use “I” statements, talk about ideas, not people and understand that word choice matters. Zoe Hedelund, ‘22, president of the Meredith College College Republicans, and Olivia Slack, ‘22, president of the Meredith College Democrats, then modeled examples of what a bad and good conversation may look like. Participants commented on both conversations and discussed some of the other factors when having civil conversations: tone, location, being cautious of your words, etc. “We may believe different things, but that doesn’t mean we should believe differently about each other,” Sholar stated. Participants were then divided into breakout rooms to have their own civil conversations; each group had a moderator who would help develop the conversation as they discussed whether college should be free. After returning back into the main room and talking about their experience in the breakout room, the event organizers said their closing remarks about the two clubs. This event was for anyone on the political spectrum, and the club leaders emphasized that both the Democrats and Republicans clubs support and respect all students’ political beliefs. Hedelund stated, “You don’t have to pick a side. We want to provide [everyone] with resources to educate [themselves] on [their] own opinions and to feel supported on campus however [they] feel.”
If students or staff are interested in joining the Civil Communication Work Group, they can reach out to Dean of Students Ann Gleason to do so. The Meredith College Democrats and College Republicans clubs can be found on MC Connect, as well as on Instagram at @meredithcollegedems and @meredithcollegerepublicans.
This article is one of the many that The Herald will be publishing about politics on campus and in our community.
By Jeanine Carryl, Staff Writer