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Civility in Our Conversations: COVID and the U.S. Political Divide
Civility in Our Conversations: COVID and the U.S. Political Divide

Civility in Our Conversations: COVID and the U.S. Political Divide

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Time & Location

Nov 21, 2023, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM EST


About the event

Why is this important: Intense debate, anger and insurmountable divides have been on the rise in recent years leading to a general loss of respect and civility in our conversations. We offer a framework for discussions that is built on the concepts of emotional intelligence, active listening, and consideration for opinions we do not necessarily agree with. This program provides the framework for educators and human resource professionals to better set the stage for successful and respectful conversations.

Program overview: This program will draw from the book, How to Engage in Difficult Conversations on Identity, Race, and Politics in Higher Education, to better prepare faculty and staff to engage in these difficult conversations. The presenters will use the COVID-19 pandemic (particularly mask mandates and vaccine debates) and the U.S. political divide as the backdrop for our conversations on civility. Drawing from concepts of emotional and cultural intelligence as well as the counseling techniques of active listening, the presenters will lay a foundation for staff, faculty, administrators, and human resources staff to be better prepared to introduce these topics into highly contested debates. The role of cumulative stress (including from the on-going political debate), fear around uncertainty (e.g., mask and vaccine issues) and how the issues of COVID-19 and politics impact people of color will be discussed.

Group exercises, case examples and sample discussion questions will be provided to further the conversation. Handouts on responding to insults and defining emotional intelligence are also provided. A sample case study, discussion question and tips for responding to insults are provided below.

DISCUSSION: Should the government (local, state, or federal) have the authority to act in a public health crisis? Why or why not? Would these powers include mandating mask wearing? Would they be able to require the population to get a vaccine? How would these limits be determined?

CASE: A student holds a strong religious concern and refuses to receive the vaccine. The school provides the option to either receive the vaccine or show negative test results within a 72-hour window. Campus health services offer testing, but for students with insurance there is a $15 co-pay for each test. The student files a concern with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion based on religious discrimination, as the cost of the testing throughout the semester presents a financial hardship based on their religion.

In your opinion, how should this be handled? Does the student make a reasonable request? How might you solve this problem?


Insult: “You are just a liberal snowflake and won’t be happy until everyone thinks the way you do.”

Response: “Well, I don’t like being called that name. I would like everyone to be able to express themselves and their viewpoints without being called names. Have you been called names by people before for your viewpoints?”

Insult: “There is just no winning with you. You don’t listen.”

Response: “I have felt that way before and it’s a tough feeling. For me, I don’t want to win and have you lose. Can you tell me again what you are saying so I can focus on what you are explaining?”

Participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the importance of civility in our conversations and learn ways to establish this through preparedness and planning prior to an event or debate.
  • Be able to identify some specific examples of how emotional and cultural intelligence can aid with political differences and discussions.
  • Review the importance of avoiding shame, blame, forced change, demanded acceptance, or agreement when approaching a discussion of political of COVID-19 issue a person holds a passionate viewpoint on.

Program includes:

  • Online access to the live 90-minute program.
  • A recorded version* of the program on along with test questions and a compliance report for the administrator of a department, college, or university.
  • Three interactive sample exercises to encourage discussion of COVID-19.
  • A list of tips for establishing civil communications.
  • A detailed handout exploring the concept of emotional intelligence.
  • Discussion questions for group discussion to continue after the live program.

* Access for one year after the date of the live program. Additional year(s) access available for 20% purchase price.

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