GENED 0853/0060 Fall 07 :
Listening and Speaking Norms
TO: Students in "Doing Justice", Fall
FROM: R. B. Taylor
RE: Guidelines for civil discourse
In class on Thursday we talked about what we should and should not say to each other, how we should say it, and how we should listen. I have attempted to boil down the different comments coming from the different groups into a few more general guidelines or norms.
At this point I suggest we treat these as draft guidelines for conduct in this class for this semester. That is we try and follow them and if they need modification we revisit this issue.
If there are some points here you disagree with, please, let's talk about it. I would like these guidelines to be something with which we are all comfortable.
* Avoid swearing and crude language. ("no foul language"; "no slang or obscenities"; "no profanity")
* If you differ, do so "respectfully." This means a lot of things which are hard to boil down but the basic idea is treating others as equals and not assuming you are better or more correct or more worthy than another ("don't get defensive if someone doesn't agree ... have a good argument"; "acknowledge differences"; "don't speak pompously").
* Avoid broad generalizations or stereotypes about entire groups. Avoid broad labels. ("racial and/or religious slurs are unwelcome"; "don't single out individuals by race, gender, etc")
* Focus on the topic at hand. This is a hard one and part of my role is to try and decide what is part of the topic. We may differ on this one. I liked the last group comment listed here. ( "stay focused on the subject at hand"; "information irrelevant to the topic should not be brought up"; "think carefully ... about what you're going to say" ; "speak ... as factually as possible"; "try to work from what the pervious person said in order to maintain the flow of conversation")
* Let's not get personal. Avoid "personal attacks" and "don't put down someone else's opinion."
* Speak up, you are addressing the whole class ("speak loudly and clearly"; "loud and clear (slow down)")
Avoid speaking aggressively. This is the "how" part of avoiding personal attacks. ("the way we speak has an impact on how people interpret what we say, so be thoughtful" ; "being able to have a discussion without making it an argument"; avoid saying "you're wrong")
Take turns. Lots of folks mentioned this. This is part of what we all (well, most of us) learned in kindergarten. ("one person speaks at a time")
* Avoid interrupting ("be patient"; "allow time to soak it in before questions" ;"be quiet while others are talking"; "don't cut others off even if what you have to say is [may be?] more important")
* Listen attentively ("no negative body language" "no passive aggressive body language" "ask questions so you know they are listening" "don't roll your eyes" "show that you are listening by nodding")
* Be open to what is being said, even if you might disagree. "Be willing to listen to everyone's opinion"
"Be sure you completely understand what someone is saying before you respond. If you aren't sure ask them!"