Jay Howard talks about Internet Civility

The Internet, Civility, and Democracy
Dunbar's number is 150. That's the theoretical maximum number of active social relationships a person can have at any one time. But if that's so, what does it mean for me to have 1,293 facebook friends?
The internet has connected us in ways we don't yet know how to be connected, like a yoga move that bends us in ways we don't know how to bend. The internet is connecting the world and is thereby forcing us to confront the fact that other people, who think and live differently that we do, exist. So what do we do?
Facebook's algorithms show us what we want to see. This technology is helpful in some cases, like the music website Pandora. I can thumb up a few songs, and pretty soon Pandora knows my music taste better than I do. But Facebook is more than music. It's people. It's a platform on which people are living more and more of their lives. When my window to the world only shows me what I want to see, that creates a number of problems. 
When we never come into contact with people who are different from us, we forget they're there. At best, we lose touch. At worst, we depersonalize and dehumanize. Sometimes I wonder: If people ceased to exist when we unfriended them, would that stop us from unfriending them? 
According to a 2016 poll commissioned by Allegheny College (conducted by Zogby and cited by the Associated Press) only 56 percent of people believe elected officials should pursue friendships with members of other parties. That's down from 85 percent in 2010.
This is a problem bigger than politics. How is it possible that citizens of a vibrant, diverse democracy think it is NOT good for their leaders to have friendships with people who are different? How are we supposed to stay vibrant? Our democratic way of life can't exist if we close ourselves off to our fellow citizens, because we can't govern ourselves if we can't compromise, and we can’t compromise if we’re closed off. Yet we endorse this very attitude when we unfriend someone for posting something that rubbed us the wrong way.
I’m grateful for organizations like Be Civil Be Heard, which has existed since 2010, because they help us combat the temptation to close ourselves off. BCBH is one of an ever growing number of organizations that exist to promote free and open civil civic dialogue. (For example, the AP article cited earlier mentions the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona, and the American Democracy Project at Middle Tennessee State University, among others.)
The example these organizations set for us is important, because our citizenship duties demand more of us than simply unfriending people with whom we disagree. And when we communicate with people with whom we disagree, our duty calls for civility, not hostility. 
In order for people to learn how to communicate in this way, we need to see it modeled. That’s why BCBH is important. Civility and other necessary citizenship behaviors are modeled every day in BCBH’s mission and in the forums, debates, and events that they sponsor. Even if we know what civility looks like, we could all use a refresher from time to time. I’m glad this organization is a part of our campus community at MSU.

MSU PR student Kaitlyn Kellough talks about speaking with courage in the face of controversy

From Kaitlyn Kellough (Springfield MO)

If you ask any person on the street for a word to describe life in today’s society there’s no doubt that the word ‘controversial’ would come up.  Almost every topic that is up for discussion is. With so many  things deemed in our society as controversial, it’s easy to feel intimidated during conversation.  It seems as if the easiest route in all things is to ride the fence, pretend you have no stance, or simply not take part in the conversation at all. By doing these things you don’t have to worry, there’s no fear, it’s 100% comfortable. There’s no risk of someone attacking your beliefs.  You can feign indifference or indecision, and by choosing one of these you avoid debate and the potential to have your worldview disputed. But you have those views, they’re your own.  You created them and shaped them through years of life and learning.  Don’t you think that they deserve to be shared?  That there may be someone in the world challenged by your thoughts? What if having the courage to speak up could be the catalyst to great events?  What if your courageous words could change the world? Just think:

Step 1: You bravely give your viewpoint

Step 2: Someone angrily disagrees

Step 3: You civilly rationalize with them on why you see the world this way

Now, simply becuase you state your opinion doesn’t mean someone will agree with you.  In fact, in todays world the chances are that they won’t.  But, just maybe the fact that you were courageous enough to stand up for what you believe in, and civil enough to willingly communicate with someone who disagrees will get that person and others thinking. Someone else may be challenged by your words, someone may be inspired to speak themselves, and when we all choose to be courageous  with our words and civil with our reactions, nothing can stop us.

MSU PR student Kelsey Coombs explains speaking with courage

From Kelsey Coombs (Springfield, MO)

Speaking with courage is not usually the first thing we think of when having a conversation about sensitive topics. But what is speaking with courage? What does it mean for you and I in our society today with many controversial conversations all around us?

Be Civil Be Heard’s message is focused on targeting exactly that topic. This non-profit organization strives for progress through civility within it’s community. There are 10 tenets of civility and Speaking Out with Courage is the 6th tenet, as shown below.

1. Be Attentive
Live with awareness toward others and your surroundings.

2. Acknowledge Others
Greet people, ideas and values with respect.

3. Be Inclusive
Recognize and welcome all people every day.

4. Listen
Seek to understand by concentrating on what people say.

5. Respect Other Views
Respond to different opinions with a fair and open mind.

6. Speak Out With Courage
Express yourself with honor and conviction.

7. Act with Compassion
Treat others with kindness and honesty.

8. Give and Accept Constructive Feedback
Consider criticism thoughtfully and factually.

9. Treat Your Environment with Respect
Show regard for nature, resources and shared spaces.

10. Be Accountable
Acknowledge mistakes and take responsibility for your actions.


As corny as it may seem, Martin Luther King Jr. made some of the most famous speeches in our history. We know this already because he was a man who spoke with honor and conviction. Every word that came out of his mouth, was working towards civility within his community. His message focused on hardships and solutions while also speaking with confidence and certainity. Watch this short video below to grasp how Martin Luther King Jr. spoke with courage.


Expressing yourself with honor and conviction is extremely important today, especially when others chose not to. While having civil conversations, you want to be able to express your opinion and perspective while also listening to others thoughts. Our opinion’s deserve to be expressed and heard through an appropriate way. We can not have progress through civility if we are not taking every tenet into consideration.

BeCivilBeHeard is a great way to start engaging in your community through many programs that the non-profit has set up. Table Top Talks, Soup & Civility, and Civic Education are some programs that they hold for any organization to take advantage of.


Has someone started the conversation in your community? Is it about time? Please comment your thoughts below or visit becivilbeheard.org.

MSU PR student Lily Cozad uses the Kid President as an example of the fifth tenet

From Lily Cozad (Springfield, MO)

BE CIVIL BE HEARD! Missouri State’s public affairs mission is something that’s so special to the student body and staff. Cultural competence is complex and probably my favorite pillar. Here’s 10 ways you can stay civil and make your opinion count when discussing cultural competence.

  1. Be attentive
  2. Acknowledge others
  3. Be inclusive
  4. Listen
  5. Respect other views
  6. Speak out with courage
  7. Act with compassion
  8. Give and accept constructive feedback
  9. Treat your environment with respect
  10. Be accountable

My favorite step would be number 5: respect other views.

In the words of Aretha Franklin: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T
find out what it means to me R-E-S-P-E-C-T take care, TCB

Kid President said it best, “if life is a game, aren’t we all on the same team?” 

Everyone will always have different opinions. Is it Panera? Is it Bread Co.? Beyond the point, we are surrounded with different viewpoints every, single day (even though it’s Panera). It’s so important to remember the overall goal: to become a unified society, to be on the same team.

Respecting others views is so important in becoming a well-rounded, educated individual. Even if someone has a conflicting opinion, understanding and respecting their opinion, will help you learn to communicate with all different mindsets. Always have an open heart and mind when having civil conversation about opposing viewpoints. Just like the golden rule states: treat people the way you want to be treated. If you need more motivation, listen to Kid President: “treat everybody like it’s their birthday.”

Wake up and remember that endless respect will always help our society move forward and become a better place. Also, while we’re on the topic on birthdays, mine is in 16 days and I love pizza, chocolate and winning card games.

Tenet the Ninth: MSU PR student Shalya Vance discusses communication in the digital age

From Shayla Vance (Springfield, MO)

In this day and age, anything you say online can be accessed by virtually anyone.  Therefore, it is important for us to maintain civility while discussing difficult topics.  Only through civil discourse can we have conversations that are productive, meaningful, and create a safe environment.  It is the goal of Be Civil, Be Heard, a non-profit organization based in Springfield, Missouri, to promote respectful discussions through its Ten Tenets of Civility:

  1. Be Attentive
  2. Acknowledge Others
  3. Be Inclusive
  4. Listen
  5. Respect Other Views
  6. Speak Out with Courage
  7. Act with Compassion
  8. Give and Accept Constructive Feedback
  9. Treat Your Environment with Respect
  10. Be Accountable

Out of all the tenets, “Treat Your Environment with Respect” is arguably the most overlooked one.  People don’t always consider the environment they are communicating in when engaging other people, especially if that environment is online.  According to the Be Civil, Be Heard website, in order to show respect for the environment, you must “show regard for nature, resources and shared spaces.”  This goes beyond simply recognizing where you are communicating and the area around you, but also how that impacts our communication.

In our digital age, the internet qualifies as both a resource and a shared space.  People use it as a primary medium for communication, especially via social media.  Since any information communicated is accessible to anyone on the planet, and any one of those people can respond immediately, the internet also becomes a virtual shared space that mimics real life public conversation.  This environment, therefore, has an effect on how we communicate. 

More importantly, it affects our ability to communicate civilly.  Oftentimes when people post to social media outlets, they say things that they normally wouldn’t if they were speaking to someone face to face.  They don’t realize that they are communicating in a shared space that includes far more people than a normal public venue.  As a result, any offensive posts reach more people and create more uncivil discourse than the author anticipated.  This is why we must be careful with the content we are distributing on social media platforms.  For the sake of human decency, for productive conversation, and for our reputations, we must maintain an understanding of our environment and respect those who are in it.

MSU PR student Kellen Yoey talks about how to respect the opinions of others

From Kellen Yoey (Sprinfield, MO)

In the 10 steps there are to the Be Civil Be Heard campaign, number five is one of the most important steps.  But why? It is my belief that if you can respect others views (#5 on the list) it makes the idea of public discussion and awareness that much more. By respecting other peoples views, you open up the for yourself to come off has being civil, but also people will tend to listen to you better if you’ve shown respect to them.  The steps that come before #5 are actions that we can all take into consideration if you find it hard to respect someone with an opposing view

  1. Be Attentive – You have to be aware of whats going on.  Just because you are sitting there does not mean you are actually retaining what a speaker is communicating.  Think about what they say and the meanings behind the words they use.
  2. Acknowledge  Others – Acknowledge the fact that someone may have an opposing idea as you.  It is inevitable and we should not act so surprised when it occurs.  By coming off less surprised and shock, the speaker won’t feel so isolated in his or her thoughts.
  3. Be Inclusive – By being inclusive you eliminate any social constructions that may make other people feel as if they are lesser than you because of an opposing view.  It doesn’t matter if their view is different, they deserve the same respect as someone who has the same view as you.
  4. Listen –  This is the most important step in leading up to respecting other views.  Often we like to “jump the gun” and interrupt when we hear something that does not resonate well with us.  I am guilty of this.  We all are.  After spending my time here at Missouri State University in the Communications department, I have noticed that listening is the most stressed aspect of communication.  This also goes along with being attentive.  Sitting there and acting like you’re listening will do nothing if you don’t actually put forth effort to listen.

All of these tie in together to make Resecting Other Views that much easier. But respect goes deeper than just a discussion with opposing views.  Its the way we treat other people in everyday situations. Because if you aren’t being civil, people can still hear you and it won’t be the same as if you were civil. Click here to watch a short clip on respect.  At the end of the day, we all want the same thing.  To be respected.

MSU PR student Megan Hayes uses a Scrubs episode as an example of self-reflection

From Megan Hayes (Springfield, MO)

Be Civil Be Heard, a Springfield-Greene County civility project, leads the way in an attempt to increase effective engagement in Springfield and Greene County by creating a more welcoming and respectful environment where all people’s views are encouraged and heard. 

Director and Curator, Dr. Elizabeth Dudash-Buskirk,  is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Missouri State University and has had a passion for politics since she was a child. BCBH is her way of contributing and living Missouri State University’s Public Affairs Mission of ethical leadership, cultural competence and community engagement. 

Elizabeth Dudash-Buskirk, Ph.D.

BCBH encourages the “count to ten” method to teach how to practice civility and learn to better respect others. There are 10 tenets of civility (Full list available here.) to live by each and every day. Before delving right in, it is important to highlight the rules that come before and after “Give and Accept Constructive Feedback”. 

#7: Act with Compassion- Treat others with kindness and honesty. 

#9: Treat your Environment with Respect- Show regard for nature, resources, and shared spaces. 

Today’s post will explore #8: Give and Accept Constructive Feedback. This rule focuses on considering criticism thoughtfully and factually. Constructive feedback can be a helpful indicator to highlight a person’s strengths and weaknesses. Identifying areas that need the most improvement will make bettering oneself that much easier. 

It is also important to be self-aware and reflect on our own strengths and weaknesses. This reflection can be used as the self-actualization to improve or become more successful. 

In this Scrubs episode, that rule is exemplified. Cox teaches J.D that focusing too much on what other people think can prevent him from truly believing in himself. There is a great lesson to take away from this example: reflecting and becoming self-aware allows a person to find power and knowledge that cannot be found elsewhere. 

As a community, we can make progress in civic engagement, civic education, and building respectful communities by living by these tenets to build a healthier democracy. 

To learn more about Be Civil Be Heard or the Ten Tenets of Civility, visit the official website or connect with them on Twitter and Facebook

Tenet the Eighth: MSU PR student Macheall Lance gives a list of ways to give and accept constructive feedback

From Macheall Lance (Springfield, MO)

At some point in our lives we will have an opinion that differs from our co-worker, friend, or neighbor. It isn’t necessarily the difference of opinion that matters so much, but more so the way in which we handle the situation.

The same old thinking and disappointing results, closed loop or negative feedback mindset concept – a napkin doodle with a cup of coffee.

Keeping a positive mindset when giving and receiving feedback will almost always ensure that the process and outcome will be positive as well.

The following list addresses how to positively give and respond to feedback.

  1. Be Direct. Speak about the issue at hand, but don’t be rude.
  2. Express Concern. Sincere concern for both sides of an issue communicates a sense of importance.
  3. Express Appreciation. This gives your words extra potency and shows that you value the other persons time.
  4. Ensure that delivery is NOT personal, hostile, picky, or demeaning.
  5. Ensure that delivery IS caring, clear, and focused on improving.

In order to keep a conversation about any issue civil we must consider criticism thoughtfully and factually before responding. Although viewpoints differ across many issues, if we really want to be heard we must be civil when we speak.

The following video revisits the 5 tips listed above.

Constructive Feedback Video


Tenet the Seventh: MSU PR student Angelina O'Donnell discusses compassion

From Angelina O'Donnell (Springfield, MO)

“Our Mission: To increase effective engagement in Springfield and Greene County by creating a more welcoming and respectful environment where all people’s views are encouraged and heard.”

When was the last time you reflected on how much compassion there was in the world? Whether you were the one being compassionate or someone showed compassion to you, we can all agree that we have experienced a moment of compassion that has left an impact. Be Civil Be Heard is a new organization that makes sure that everybody has a voice on a matter that is important to them. Be Civil Be Heard has 10 tenants of civility and they include the following…

  • Be Attentive
  • Acknowledge Others
  • Be Inclusive
  • Listen
  • Respect Other Views
  • Speak Out With Courage
  • Act With Compassion
  • Give and Accept Constructive Feedback
  • Treat Your Environment With Respect
  • Be Accountable

The seventh tenant, act with compassion, places an emphasis on treating others with kindness and honesty. The motivational component of compassion, wanting to help people, creates ambition for greater good which helps Be Civil Be Heard discussions become productive and gain that civility.

Compassion and empathy can truly go a long way, and you never know what your act of compassion can make someone feel. Watch the following video clip of former President, Barack Obama, explaining the importance of empathy which can be tied into compassion.


Tenet the Third: MSU PR student Connor Randell explains the important of inclusion

From Connor Randell (Springfield, MO)

When we are young, everyone learns in school how important it is to include everyone in all activities. We saw that not everyone felt welcomed or we ourselves were not welcomed by others. In order for our our world to function well together, we must all learn how important inclusion truly is.

The Be Civil Be Heard organization works to help everyone understand that all people have something they can bring to the table, no matter how different they may seem. “Be Inclusive” is the third step in the Count to 10 countdown of the program. Before this step, we learned about the importance of being attentive in our surroundings and acknowledging  others ideas with respect.

All people no matter what race, sexual orientation, religion, or other differences should be included with everyone. Everybody is different and that’s what makes being alive so special. Being able to have different ideas to bring to the world for people to understand is so important in reaching our ultimate goal: making the world turn in peace. The video in the link describes how all our differences can make the world a better place through inclusion and understanding.  There are so many people in the world, yet everyone is a unique individual.

So whether it’s in the work place, school, or in a social setting; include everyone around you on the ideas being shared. It may turn out they have ideas of their own that coincide with yours.  You can also learn a great deal from other’s ideas. Everyone has gone through different experiences and has learned new information that you don’t have. Maybe it can help guide you to be the better person you have always wanted to be.  Being inclusive also can lead to progress in working together on any project. When we all get along, we avoid argumentation and avoidance that distract us from the positive goals that we want to make in our lives.

Being inclusive is just one important pillar in the Be Civil Be Heard countdown. If you want more information on the group and how to be a more civil being in society, visit the official Be Civil Be Heard website. Here are the other steps included on the site:

  • Listen
  • Respect Other Views
  • Speak Out With Courage
  • Act With Compassion
  • Give and Accept Constructive Feedback
  • Treat Your Environment with Respect
  • Be Accountable

Tenet the First: MSU PR student Tina Pham makes personal connections to the tenets of civility

From Tina Pham (Springfield, MO)

Be Civil Be Heard is an organization in Springfield, Mo working towards making conversation about difficult topics civil and productive. Conversations can arise in any setting and at any time. It is good to know some steps to help guide the conversation and get your voice heard. If we didn’t have steps for being civil, we could potentially end up like Regina George and Cady Heron.

The first step to civil and productive conversation is to be attentive. Being attentive is knowing that there are other thoughts around that are different from yours, but also knowing that you are not always right is key to civil and productive conversations. It’s not just listening but trying to understand.

Communicators can be attentive by finding common ground rather than focusing on issues that differentiate us. Gathering around a table with people of a different race, ethnicity, or stance can lead to an amazing conversation of learning and engaging if it is done the right way.

As a biracial student, I’ve learned to listen when I’m engaging in a conversation about a topic that may be difficult to discuss or one that has caused controversy. I listen to what people have to say and I process the information before responding because progress can only be made through civility.

BCBH is working towards writing the narrative of our story as one that illustrates unity and progress on issues in our community. Once we’ve established attentiveness, communicators can continue the count to 10 process and continue engaging in civil discourse.

Tenet the Second: MSU PR student Brionna Cooper uses a viral video to explain the tenets of civility

From Brionna Cooper (Springfield, MO)

Be Civil Be Heard is a non-profit administered out of the Center for Community Engagement at Missouri State University by Elizabeth Dudash-Buskirk and a very diverse group of board members. The point of Be Civil Be Heard is to create conversation and promote change through civility.

Be Civil Be Heard has Ten Tenets of Civility:

  1. Be Attentive.

  2. Acknowledge Others.

  3. Be Inclusive.

  4. Listen.

  5. Respect Other Views.

  6. Speak Out With Courage.

  7. Act With Compassion.

  8. Give And Accept Constructive Feedback.

  9. Treat Your Environment With Respect.

  10. Be Accountable.

The tenet that I will be focusing on is #2, Acknowledge Others. The idea of this tenet is to greet people, ideas, and values with respect.

Here is a quick video that shows a situation in which a person didn’t acknowledge another. What was most likely an awkward situation to be in, was luckily made into a humorous example we can use today.

We’ve all probably had times where we’ve felt like the man who offered up a handshake and got rejected. If we all decide to practice acknowledging others more often we can reduce those awkward encounters and make everyone feel like they’re being paid attention to.

While at times it may be difficult to greet certain people, ideas, or values with respect, it is important to remember how you would feel if someone wasn’t greeting you, your ideas, or your values with respect. We might not always agree with one another, but we should always welcome different perspectives. The best way for us all to learn and grow as people and as a community is to listen to the different perspectives, ideas, and values of various people.

For more information on Be Civil Be Heard visit their website.

Tenet the Fourth: MSU PR student Sarah Sabo discusses the difference between hearing and listening

From Sarah Sabo (Springfield, MO)

A relatively new trend in online writing that has become instantly accessible to anyone with a wireless connection is the list. Scroll through Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat and you can find 10 things successful people do, (which almost implies that the person reading is not successful in their own reality), six ways to become more attractive or 25 things all single women have in common.

What about these “all-knowing” lists so easily entices us to keep scrolling until point number 42 is made? My theory is this. Something persuades us that all our previous knowledge obviously has failed us up to the present, because we do not have what the list is telling us to achieve. The bullet points made in an article taking 17 seconds to forget, is now the best way to build a better version of ourselves. While a few of the lists may actually be insightful and helpful, I believe they also take away an element of self-reliance from readers. If we are not any of the things deemed “successful” or “attractive”, we have no chance unless we conform. Conformation implies behaving according to socially established values, altering yourself to become accepted.

What if a list focused on positive attributes that help make societal progress through all having the opportunity to share their points of view, instead of emphasizing social inadequacy? What if we transformed? Transformation implies making a thorough change in form, appearance and character.

One solution is already in existence. Be Civil Be Heard is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “promote increase effective engagement in Springfield and Greene County by creating a more welcoming and respectful environment where all people’s views are encouraged and heard.”

Civility is much more than being politically correct. It is showing regard for other’s opinions by being kind, well-mannered, and respectful in any situation, regardless of whether you agree with someone’s thoughts. There are many ways to conduct ourselves in a manner that promotes civility, while holding true to our own values. 10 tenants Be Civil Be Heard has established seek to help improve any situation, not just one involving a disagreement.

  1. Be Attentive.

  2. Acknowledge Others.

  3. Be Inclusive.

  4. Listen.

  5. Respect Other Views.

  6. Speak with Courage.

  7. Act with Compassion.

  8. Give and Accept Constructive Feedback.

  9. Treat Your Environment.

  10. Be Accountable.

Each of these actions require effort and selflessness, which is a hard thing to do in a society that preaches individualism and self-improvement. I struggle with it, everyone struggles with dying to themselves. Looking at this list, there is one attribute that I believe is the basis of growing in civility. Listening. Be Civil Be Heard describes listening as seeking to understand people by concentrating what they say.

There is a distinct difference between the actions of hearing and listening. To hear requires no work. It is a choice if someone retains information presented to them. Hearing is what we do when we are only thinking of a point to refute someone else. Hearing is almost selfish. To help differentiate between the two, here is a visual aid.

While simply not listening to someone might not be as blatant as Ross’s physical reaction, not allowing ourselves to focus on the message being presented is just as disrespectful. Listening is humble. When we listen, we respect the opinion of others enough to not think so highly of our own views. Famed author Henry David Thoreax thought, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”

There are many ways to practice becoming a better listener. One way is to learn what it means to become an active listener. To actively listen, use nonverbal ques, positive reinforcement, ask for clarification and summarize to show genuine interest. This clip from the television show “Everybody Loves Raymond” demonstrates the positive results of active listening.

We can all strive to be better listeners. I challenge you to focus on engaging in active listening with at least one conversation this week and comment back on the difference you see your interactions.

MSU PR student David Azar connects inclusion to the tenets of civility

From David Azar (Springfield, MO)

Raise your hand if you were ever neglected from a social event or get together. So I can’t actually see you guys, but I assume you all raised your hand because we have all felt neglected before. Feeling like you’re not a part of something is one of the loneliest feelings in the world. This feeling can breed animosity towards those people who are a part of something. This mindset breeds uncivil attitudes. As humans, we are all living together on this Earth. Forever. And ever. Nothing we do can ever make that fact a falsity. We may as well include everyone while we’re here.

The best way to spread civility between each other is to include everyone in the conversation. Argument is fine, in fact it is encouraged at times. Civil discourse can move society forward. But it can only move forward when we have all voices present. It’s also important to listen to these voices instead of just yelling over them! Once we include everyone in the conversation and hear all the opinions present we can truly say we made the choice we support! Being inclusive is the only way to get to that point though. Without inclusion, those opposing viewpoints are not present.

Being civil is about more than just being inclusive, although that is a big part! The first step is to be attentive, acknowledge others, and then be inclusive. These three steps are followed by listening, respecting others, speaking with courage, acting with compassion, giving and accepting constructive feedback, treating your environment with respect, and finally being accountable. These 10 steps can help you Be Civil and Be Heard! This leads to happiness and a more friendly, informed group of people.

Tenet the First: MSU PR student Bryar Keyes lists tips for being attentive

From Bryar Keyes (Springfield, MO)

1. Be Attentive

Breathe, listen, learn.

In the process of civil discourse and action one must truly be attentive, to the situation, to the topic, and to the others involved in the conversation.

To truly be attentive, there are three main components to keep in mind.

  1. Listen to understand, not to respond.

  2. Know where you are, physically, and frame of mind at the time.

  3. Understand where your conversational partner is coming from and pay attention to what they are saying, both verbally and nonverbally.

You can’t converse to respond, or you aren’t carrying out your half of the deal. You should respond when you have something of quality to say back to make the conversation more profound, and have listened and thought about what the other party has put forth. Eye contact is crucial to listening to someone, countless studies show how eye contact provides maximum retention.

You also need to take into account your surroundings and be aware of where you are and your place in that situation. This means understanding your experiences and personal feelings about the topic of discussion as well as the setting of the conversation.

If you take these into account you will also be understanding of the other party in the conversation and where they are coming from, their frame of reference, their feelings, and their motivations for their behavior. By keeping these tactics in mind during the conversation you can prevent many of the bad situations that may arise, and open the door to the other tenants of civility, you are more likely to be able to partake in the discourse with a greater dexterity and therefore make more progress through civility.

Tenet the Fifth: MSU PR student Madelyn Dodson discusses respect in relation to politics and religion

From Madelyn Dodson (Springfield, MO)

Be Civil Be Heard is a civility project in Springfield and Greene County in Missouri. The project has 10 Tenets of Civility. The project urges small and large businesses, public agencies, and government entities to adopt these tenets and to live up to these 10 tenets. The 10 tenets are the following:

  1. Be attentive

  2. Acknowledge Others

  3. Be Inclusive

  4. Listen

  5. Respect Other Views

  6. Speak Out With Courage

  7. Act With Compassion

  8. Give and Accept Constructive Feedback

  9. Treat Environment  with Respect

  10. Be Accountable

While all 10 of these are important and following them can help the community come together as a whole and be civil, I want to talk about number 5, Respect Other Views, more in depth. It is important to remember that everyone comes from a different background with different political views, religious views, etc. Respecting other’s views is something I believe a lot of people have been neglecting to do lately. A lot of disrespect that I see is on social media. Today, no one can post something without having someone with the opposite views to tell them they are wrong. People need to remember that there is not one religious or political view that is superior to others. Everyone is entitled to their own belief and to be able to speak freely about what they believe in.


Below is a video of a young christian man apologizing to homosexuals. The man brings up organizations like Westboro Baptist Church who have protested against homosexuals for being homosexual.  This is just one example of a group not respecting another groups views. This video shows how the young man respects the homosexuals even though it might not be something he believes in. If we each carried out the same respect as this young man does, the Springfield and Greene County communities can come together to be a more civil community.

Love Revived Video

The Be Civil Be Heard project is a great way for the Springfield and Greene County community to come together and practice these tenets especially Respect for other views. For more information on the Be Civil Be Heard project and to find out how you can participate click the link Be Civil Be Heard.

Tenet the Tenth: Missouri State PR student Delaney Lindstrom discusses the tenets of civility

From Delaney Lindstrom (Springfield, MO)

At Missouri State University, Dr. Elizabeth Dudash-Buskirk has started an organization on campus called “Be Civil, Be Heard.” As a start to the organization, Dr. Dudash-Buskirk has made a “Count to 10!” listing all of the things that her organization believes in:

  1. Be Attentive

  2. Acknowledge Others

  3. Be Inclusive

  4. Listen

  5. Respect Others

  6. Speak With Courage

  7. Act With Compassion

  8. Give and Accept Constructive Feedback

  9. Treat Your Environment with Respect

And last but not least...

    10. Be Accountable

In the eyes of Be Civil, Be Heard being accountable means to acknowledge your mistakes and take responsibility for your actions. One’s ability to be responsible and accountable is a direct result of the tasks one may be assigned. This can also relate to situations happening in one’s personal life. Someone who demonstrates accountability will always take a hit and take responsibility for their actions if need be. As Ron Broussard says in this video clip, having accountability to yourself and others will push you through difficult times! For more information about the organization, listen to what Dr. Dudash-Buskirk has to say during her radio interview!

Tenet the First: An Exploration -- Board Member Carl Hunt talks about the tenets of civility

From Carl Hunt (Pittsburgh, PA)

Happy New Year to you all!  I hope you all have a wonderful, prosperous, and peaceful 2017.  I thought a great way to start off the year is to dive right into the first of the ten tenets of civility. 

Be Attentive: Live with awareness toward others and your surroundings

A few years ago, I was sitting in church with my kids.  About thirty minutes into church, a gentleman sitting across the church from me began to put his head down.  His skin was turning gray and he began to sweat and mumble to his wife.  Although the majority of the people in church paid were paying attention to the service, a few people sitting nearby the ill man quickly attended to him and called paramedics.  He was having a mild stroke, and because people were being attentive, he was able to get quick care, leading to a solid recovery.

Being attentive doesn’t always have to save a life.  I once had a subordinate get into an argument with a manager at work.  Both of them were disappointed with each other’s efforts to complete a work product that had to get completed and delivered to a client that day.  Neither of them was attentive enough to notice that the conversation was quickly escalating, and within a few minutes, I (now aware of the argument because of the noise in a normally quiet office) had to step in the middle of a loud shouting match. I quickly separated the two of them into different rooms, and had them both focus on what needed to get done to meet the client’s deadline.  The deadline was met, but some hard feelings lingered between the two people engaged in the argument.

In the event of the two coworkers, they were both ignoring the many signs of an escalating argument, and they weren’t listening to each other very well (if at all).  At church, the man was not ignored – but what would have happened if he had been ignored?

Ignorance is the opposite of awareness.  Being aware of others and your surroundings is a great place to start in practicing civility.  It could prevent an argument…or even save a life.

Tell us about a situation you encountered in which awareness was used or not used. What happened?  Please share your story with us!

How does progress link to civility? --Graduate student Tami Franklin looks at progress

From Tami Franklin

Let’s Make Progress: The Role of Civility in Public Deliberation

How to achieve better results and progress through the use of civility in public deliberation.

Why does modern public discourse result in loud voices, funny faces, rude remarks and pointing fingers? In using a general definition for incivility as lacking courtesy in behavior and speech, and civility as its opposite, let us look for any evidence where incivility plays a progressive role in debate and find the reasoning used for replacing civility? What is it going to take to create positive change and who is going to make the civil effort? We need to hear the voices of civil speakers calling confidently to the public that now is the time for a change in the way we exchange in public discourse.


Uncivil vs. Civil Discourse: Progress or Retrogression?

Civility was formed in our efforts to leave barbarism in the past where it belongs. The structure of discourse is flipped upside down when it contains derogatory and abusive remarks. Our great country allows for freedom of opinions, but it does not give us the right to make our opinions facts. In a free country it is not possible to control the accuracy of information as it filters through the internet, therefore anyone’s opinion can be heard as a fact. Where does incivility come from? Well, if you do not have the confidence in your ideas or solutions nor the ability to present them, you take the focus off of yourself by throwing dirt on someone else or their words. Have we not progressed out of third-grade antics in the year 2016?